From Chicago to Brazil
Larry Taylor’s unusual journey to the 2012 Olympics.
by John Hobbs / @johnswisshobbs
Social media is such a powerful tool these days, especially for Brazilian international Larry Taylor.
The Chicago-born 31-year-old took to Twitter in May to proudly announce that he had earned his Brazilian citizenship, exactly two months before the Olympic Games.
Taylor tweeted, “It’s official, I am now Brazilian,” in both English and Portuguese.
“It feels great,” he added. “It’s a real honor to be representing Brazil. I love Brazil, man.”
Before Taylor based himself in South America, he had dreams of making it as a star in America. Taylor attended Rich Central (IL) High, before attending South Suburban College, a junior college near Chicago. Taylor would stay there for two years before moving to Missouri Western State College.
He joined the Chicago Soldiers in the American Basketball Association in 2004, but he only stayed with the team briefly before accepting an offer to play in Mexico, where he stayed for about two years going to Venezuela.
Little did Taylor know that he would stay there permanently.
“When I first went there, I just wanted to play. I didn’t think about staying in South America or anything,” he admitted.
“I’m glad I took the risk, which it kind of was at the time, but I’m happy. I have a good life in Brazil, and it to make it even more of a fairytale; I’m in the Olympics. Never thought I’d be saying that four years ago.”
Taylor moved to Brazil in 2006 where he played for Itabom Bauru, and originally earned a call-up to the Brazil squad, led by legendary Argentine coach Ruben Magnano for the FIBA Americas tournament in Argentina last year. He was halted from playing as he couldn’t stay with the squad after the Brazilian government specified that the naturalization process wouldn’t be completed in time for that particular event.
Taylor, to his dismay had to wait another year.
But he, along with the Brazilian team, is appearing at his first Olympic Games (Brazil last qualified in 1996—Ed.). Taylor is realizing a dream of playing in London, which is a plus point for a Brazil team that has been screaming for a backup to Marcelinho Huertas. The Samba side struggled with at the 2010 World Championships in Turkey, and Taylor hopes to fill that void.
“The team and the coaches have been great for me in practice and I hope to get some good minutes to help Brazil any way I can,” Taylor said.
“I hope I can fill that void at the point. Marcelinho [Huertas] does a great job and he needs back-up so I’m just happy to be able to fill that void, [Leandro] Barbosa can fill in as well so we’re good,” he continued.
The language barrier isn’t a problem for Taylor, who speaks fluent Portuguese, as he spoke to the Brazilian press after the Australia game.
“It certainly helps that he speaks the native language, but importantly he brings a lot of power in the position of point guard and he been helping us a lot,” Barbosa said of Taylor.
The Indiana Pacers guard added, “Taylor’s new to the team so the chemistry he doesn’t have yet but he is trying really hard and he is a good key for us, we like him a lot and respect his game a lot and he has been helping us a lot.”
Brazil started its Olympic campaign in London with a narrow 75-71 win over Australia. Barbosa led the South Americans with 16 points as he shook off a poor first half to flourish in the third and fourth quarters, admitting that coach Magnano wanted him to be a more aggressive.
Taylor played seven minutes and scored 2 points.
“It was a good win for us,” Taylor stated. “It ended up being a close game, we had control of the game but they fought back and got back into it, giving us a real scare. But we’re just happy to come away with the victory.”
Playing at the Olympics is a dream come true, but it will hold a place in Taylor’s memory forever for the Games being in a city he has always wanted to visit.
“I like it here, the weather is a little different, one day it rains the next it’s sunny but it’s a little far away from home (Brazil),” he chuckled.