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The one who got away: Hall of Famer Oscar Schmidt

Sérgio Savarese (Creative Commons)

The Nets of the mid-80's weren't a bad club, with the likes of Mike Gminski, Michael Ray Richardson, Buck Williams, Darryl Dawkins and Otis Birdsong. They outdrew the Knicks.

Imagine if the Nets had one of the best players ever. It almost happened. Sunday, Oscar Schmidt of Brazil will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, 29 years after he was drafted by the Nets in the sixth round, the first international pick ... ever. He never played in the NBA, but the man who Brazilan fans called "Holy Hand" said it wasn't because the Nets didn't try.

Scott Howard-Cooper writes...

"Signing with the NBA at that time would have meant being ineligible for the national team, and Schmidt was not willing to make that tradeoff. The Nets pursued him three years in a row, he said, but no way. After the rules were changed to allow the Dream Team to play in the 1992 Olympics, sure, except that Schmidt was 34 by the time of the historic Barcelona Games. It would be different under the current rules."

Although he could still play --he averaged 42.3 in the Barcelona Olympics-- he was set in his ways.

"I would be one of the best 10 ever," he told Howard-Cooper Saturday at the Hall of Fame. "Give me two months of practice, I kill everybody else."

He may not have made it to the NBA or the Nets, but no matter, he like Drazen Petrovic, is now in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The two, in fact, faced off in a classic Euroleague championship game in 1989. In that contest, Schmidt scored 44 and Petrovic 62.