I was in Brazil for the World Cup, and I wanted to share some of my Wiz related stories. More than any other country I've ever been to Brazil most rivals the US in terms of importance and popularity of sports. We all know about their love affair with football (soccer) but just walking around various cities there are tons of images, ads, and commercials showing how much interest there is for other sports. This includes my (and I hope your) favorite sport.
There were more NBA jerseys walking around Brazil, particularly Rio and Sao Paulo, than I could count. By my count the most popular jersey I saw was Kobe, followed by Lebron (Heat version), followed by Varajeo. Surprisingly I didn't see any Nene jerseys, but I did run into a guy in Ipanema (area of Rio) with a Michael Jordan retro Bullets jersey. He'd never been to the States but MJ was his favorite athlete and he thought the Bullets jersey was unique and cool. Of course I agreed with him, tried to recruit him (with no luck, he's a spurs guy now) and wished him the best.
I try to play a little ball in most places I visit if given the opportunity and luckily I played a little pickup in Sao Paulo. They had outdoor courts all over the place, so it was relatively easy to get a game and unsurprisingly it was pretty similar to every pick up game I've ever played. I've played pickup in Europe and that took a couple games to get used to but the style in Brazil was very different. Physical, not as much passing and movement as Europe, but the shooting was better than I'm used to here in DC, a touch worse than the guys I played with in Barcelona. Being American (and almost 30) I welcomed the physical game, I tend to appreciate good post play so I bullied the one older guy they put on me and looked like 94 Anthony Mason with my sweet passes from the block. Very cool and knowledgeable group though, mostly Bulls fans so I talked a lot of smack that afternoon. All in good fun, we wished each other the best and exchanged information.
Last story is again from Rio. I'm in a bar and a guy hears me talk and asks if I'm American. After I confirm he goes on to tell me that basketball is his favorite sport, and after 45 mins of convo I had to conclude he's the biggest NBA fan in Brazil. He's also a Bulls fan, and was very complimentary of the Wiz in general and Beal in particular. He was at our preseason game last year in Rio and will be attending this year to see Cleveland/Miami. Lebron hadn't announced his move yet so he was hoping he got to see him play, since he didn't get to see the Bulls stars last year (if you remember Rose didn't play). After his switch back to Cleveland I don't think that would be an issue this year. I brought up the Nene boos from last year and he told me that local sports media have presented a narrative that Nene blows off the Seleção Brasileira and most people don't care enough to follow the Wiz and track Nene's injuries. As far as the general sporting public believes Nene is about his life in America and being a star over here (they grossly overestimate Nene's star and life in America, I know). Coincidently the night of this conversation was the same night the team re-signed Gortat. As you guys remember, I didn't take it very well (probably all the beers) but my friend Lucas talked me off the edge.
I still took my Ain't No Luck shirt up with me to Cristo Redentor and repped for my squad. Obrigado Brasil, and hopefully next time I come the Wizards will be one of the popular teams with a lot of new fans and jerseys.