Leandro Barbosa Makes NBA History as Golden State Warriors Defeat Cleveland Cavaliers in Finals
The Golden State Warriors have defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their first NBA Championship since 1975.
It was an incredible season for the Warriors as Stephen Curry won the regular season MVP award, and Andre Iguodala took home the finals MVP. Steve Kerr may be a rookie head coach, but he proved all the doubters wrong by winning the NBA Championship in his first season.
In the midst of so many awards, accolades and incredible accomplishments, one can't help but recognize Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa at this moment. It's been a long time coming for the veteran.
The "Brazilian Blur" is officially an NBA Champion.
The 32-year-old out of São Paulo is now the second Brazilian-born player in history to win the NBA Championship. Last year San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter became the first player from Brazil to win an NBA Championship. Brazil will always be viewed as a soccer loving nation with superstars like Pele, Ronaldo and Neymar leading the way, but the large South American country is making its mark on the NBA. Back to back years for Brazil with an NBA Champion sets up great for international scouting.
After playing for numerous Brazilian teams (Palmeiras, Associação Baurus) Barbosa finally got his chance at the NBA level. His talent simply couldn't be overlooked, and at the 2003 NBA Draft, he was selected by the Spurs in the first round. He was eventually traded to the Phoenix Suns where he would thrive playing the next eight years of his professional career.
With the Suns, Barbosa led the team to the playoffs five times. He would go on to win the Sixth Man of The Year Award in 2007 with the team. Barbosa never did make it to the finals with the Suns, however. His closest chances to the championship came in 2005 and 2006 when they lost back to back conference finals to the Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.
Barbosa became one of the most elusive players in the league. Barbosa shot an impressive 46.7 percent from the field with the Suns and nearly 40 percent from three point range. As time went on, Barbosa would improve his rebounding, defense and passing skills dramatically. His court vision and speed dubbed him the "Brazilian Blur" by NBA fans everywhere.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Barbosa returned to Brazil. He signed a short term contract with the Flamengo Brazil squad. Upon his return to the United States, Barbosa would play for the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics (he tore his ACL), Toronto Raptors, Esporte Clube Pinheiros of Brazil, and even back to the Suns for a season. Barbosa was becoming a journeyman as he entered a pivotal time in his career. It looked as Barbosa would never get that elusive championship ring.
From the 2009-10 season through the 2013-14 season Barbosa played in just 227 total NBA games, barely averaging more than half a season on the court.
Last offseason, the Warriors gave Barbosa a chance. Barbosa has always used his international game to boost his NBA stock, and his play at the 2014 FIBA Basketball Championship for Brazil did just that. Head coach Steve Kerr played Barbosa in 66 games this year, his most since the 2008-09 season with the Suns. Barbosa was able to average 17.1 points per 36 minutes this season. He also had a valuable Game 5 performance in the NBA Finals scoring 13 points off the bench in just 17 minutes. Barbosa even had the responsibility of guarding LeBron James for numerous sequences in this series.
Barbosa has the most all time assists, three point shots made and the highest free throw percentage of any Brazilian-born player in NBA history. Barbosa has 902 more three-pointers than any other Brazilian player. Only Nene Hilario has more career rebounds and points scored by a player from Brazil. Barbosa has represented Brazil at the Olympics as well.