Former champ Marquinhos aims at second title, this time with his beloved Sao Paulo
TENERIFE (Spain) - There haven't been many occasions when a South American team conquered the FIBA Intercontinental Cup trophy, but Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza is one of the lucky few who know the feeling all too well, having won it back in 2014.
Marquinhos, as he is commonly known, was a part of the Flamengo superteam that outlasted Maccabi Tel Aviv over the two-leg 2014 Finals and won the FIBA Intercontinental Cup with a lineup that only got more legendary as years passed and included the likes of Marquinhos, Marcelinho Machado, Nico Laprovittola, Walter Herrmann, Vitor Benite or Cristiano Felicio.
The 2014 Flamengo side that conquered the FIBA Intercontinental Cup was nothing short of a superteam
"Very good memories," the 38-year-old power forward smiled when we reminded him of that 2014 Finals matchup against the Israeli team.
"It was in my city, Rio. I live there during the off season, have a lot of friends and family there, and the team was feeding off of the amazing Flamengo fans' energy," he recalled.
"Maccabi won the first game, so we concentrated on the second one. I remember a lot of things, but the best one is that at the end of the game the fans came onto the court and joined in the trophy lifting."
Marquinhos enjoyed a lot of success during his time at Flamengo
Flamengo are one of the biggest clubs in the world, with two FIBA Intercontinental Cups to their name, two BCL Americas titles and two more South American championships, as well as seven national league titles in Brazil. But after spending nine years there, Marquinhos decided it was time to change the scenery and moved to Sao Paulo back in 2021.
They got instant success. An underdog going all the way, Sao Paulo stunned the continent to win the BCL Americas in Marquinhos's first season with the team.
"It was totally different. Sao Paulo has only been in the top level of Brazilian basketball for the last four years. The process is totally different to Flamengo's, Sao Paulo is only getting better through the years," Marquinhos explained.
But there was another big reason for him to sign with the Tricolor Paulista.
"Sao Paulo is the team of my heart. I had a lot of good times at the Morumbi stadium, because I'm a big fan of the (Sao Paulo) soccer team, and now I got a chance to play for the basketball team and win a big tournament like the BCL Americas for my favorite team," he said with a big smile.
É TRICOLOOOR!!! 🏀🏆— São Paulo FC (@SaoPauloFC) April 10, 2022
🎥 @BCLAmericas #VamosSãoPaulo 🇾🇪
If Marquinhos wants to bring home another trophy, Sao Paulo will have to defeat the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the Semi-Finals. The Brazilians are a bit older, the Americans are a bit more athletic.
"It's gonna be a tough game for both teams. We do have the experience, but not a lot of our players played at this level of competition. The Vipers are young, we know they will be physical, but we have to match that to achieve the goal of reaching the Final," the veteran Brazilian said.
No matter who advances from the other side of the draw, Marquinhos will have a veteran partner on Sunday, in the Third-Place Game or the Final. It's either going to be the 42-year-old Radhouane Slimane, or the 39-year-old Marcelinho Huertas, and he already has a 42-year-old teammate in Shamell Stallworth. What's their secret for longevity?
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"I just love the game of basketball. I prepare every single day to be my best version, and to play the best that I can. I still enjoy going to the court, doing my fundamentals, I enjoy the teammates, the opponents, the fans. Marcelinho is the same, we enjoy the game and look forward to the next challenge."
Brazil has a tradition in this event. They won it three times, with Sirio in 1979, Flamengo was triumphant in 2014 and 2022. Is 2023 going to be the year that Sao Paulo joins them on the global basketball map?