|Brazilian legend Leandro Barbosa gets his kicks with Celtics||11.28.12 at 9:37 am ET|
Leandrinho. The Brazilian Blur. LB.
Leandro Barbosa has many different nicknames, but to anyone who has ever met the man, only one word will do.
‘There was nobody who didn’t like LB,’ said Jack McCallum, the longtime Sports Illustrated journalist and author of “Seven Seconds or Less,” a phenomenal snapshot of the Suns team — and the league — during the 2005-06 season. “LB was loved. He had a kind of innocence about him, and a real work ethic with the way he approached everything. He looked at himself as kind of an open book whereas a lot of guys who come into the NBA — guys without LB’s ability or talent — think they know everything, but LB was never like that.”
Barbosa, who celebrates his 30th birthday Wednesday, grew up in SÃ£o Paulo, the world’s seventh largest city by population, and a hotbed for soccer.
“I’m from Brazil, so everybody knows about soccer,” said Barbosa, whose subtle accent still creeps up in conversation. “I used to play when I was a little kid, but I decide to play a different sport.”
Barbosa, the youngest of five children, wanted to play basketball for a pretty simple reason. His brother played.
“My brother Arturo played professionally,” Barbosa said. “I always was around him; whatever he was doing, I wanted to do the same thing. I decided to play basketball because of him. Arturo started teaching me how to play.”
Arturo, 20 years older than Barbosa, became a driving force in his little brother’s basketball career.
“Arturo was a pretty tough taskmaster,” McCallum said. “I don’t think those of us in the States really understand much about how kids in other countries learn the game. We just know they learn the game differently. LB still has scars from Arturo.”
McCallum wasn’t talking figuratively. If Barbosa made a mistake in his ball-handling drills, there were consequences. Arturo would whack him with a stick.
“I had to be quick with the ball, quick with my hands, because if I wasn’t, he slapped with me the stick,” said Barbosa, who still bears the scars on both hands. “At the time, as a kid, I was crying. I didn’t know why he was doing that. But if it wasn’t for all the work he put in, I don’t think I’d be here in the NBA. Those drills still stay with me.”