Barbosa, Garcia and Varejao: The special feeling of playing in five World Cups
NANJING (Brazil) - Not many players have the pleasure of featuring at five straight FIBA Basketball World Cup events, but Brazil seems to be the country of FIBA Basketball World Cup record setters.
Marcelinho Machado's fifth World Cup matched the appearance record in 2014 and he was joined by three of his countrymen five years later. Leandro Barbosa, Alex Garcia and Anderson Varejao hit the mark this year in China, where Brazil - a country that hasn't missed a FIBA Basketball World Cup since 1950 - face New Zealand, Montenegro and Greece in Group F.
Just like Luis Scola of Argentina and Eduardo Mingas from Angola - who hit the fifth mark this year - the three Brazilians first embarked on their World Cup journey back in 2002 in Indianapolis, and 17 years on, Barbosa (36), Garcia (39) and Varejao (who turns 37 later this month) are still around running the floor as pleasantly as in their early days with the yellow-and-green jersey on.
"HOPEFULLY WE ARE GOING TO DO WELL AS THIS IS GOING TO BE MY LAST WORLD CUP."
"I don't look at their passports. For me, they are all fantastic players and they are here to help our team succeed. We have a mix of younger and more experienced players," Brazil head coach Alexandar Petrovic said when asked to describe his team.
Looking thorough their recent performances in Brazil's topflight league Novo Basquete Brazil, age really seems just like numbers for three of them. Barbosa last played for Minas Clube, Varejao helped Flamengo win the 2019 league title, and Garcia suited for Bauru Basquete.
Their national team careers combined with hours of work in the gym played a significant part in their careers. Both Barbosa and Varejao went on to win NBA titles with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors while donning Brazil jerseys at international level.
But as Barbosa puts it, it's time to move on.
"It's a special one (for me) and the two other guys on the team, I am very happy to be in this position. It means a lot for me to be here," Barbosa told FIBA.basketball being able to represent Brazil at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
"This is a very competitive tournament, and hopefully we can do a good job in my fifth World Cup as this is going to be my last one."
Brazil brought to China a number of youngsters. Bruno Caboclo (23), Didi Louzada (20) and Yago Mateus (20) as young as Barbosa, Garcia and Varejao were 17 years ago.
"I was the youngest player on the team, we had a lot of veterans including Varejao's older brother [Sandro]. Now, I am in an opposite situation. I am one of the veterans on the team, and we have some good young guys coming up. My and other guys' duty is to help them up."
If any of the newcomers target national longevity, there may be no better person to ask than Barbosa.
"Looking up to veterans, getting some experience from them, playing the game, enjoying it, having fun and taking care of yourself because you can be in the situation we are right now," he listed his own keys to durability.
Barbosa will get to enjoy the last World Cup experience with two of his long-time national team teammates
Throughout his national career, Barbosa says he built a good friendship with Garcia: "Alex is one of my best friends on the team. We've shared hotel rooms for almost 20 years. Ever since we started our national team careers, we have been roommates. We have a very close relationship."
"With Varejao, it's not like with Alex, but it's still a close friendship. We played together for the Golden State Warriors for one season; we have been in a national team together for many years, it's a good relationship," he explained.
And now, heading into his fifth World Cup, what is on Barbosa's mind?
"It's a tough tournament. It's a lot of countries competing for the same goal. Hopefully, we are going do well as this is going to be my last World Cup, and the three of us want to make sure we do a great job for our country. With the team that we have, we hope to make some impact in the world."