The story of Lucas Nogueira It shows that, in elite sport, the boundaries between heaven, limbo and purgatory are very thin lines. The Brazilian pivot, 26 years and 2.13m, is fighting these days in Fuenlabrada to leave behind his particular hell to recover the promising path he lost for a dissolute life. His eight points did not change Real Madrid (80-95) but they were another step in his rearmament.
Question. Where does Lucas Nogueira come from?
Answer. I was given up for adoption with 20 days to live. I came to a well-off family and I had a happy childhood. I have a brother and sister 20 years older than me who welcomed me as a brother of blood. I had more privileges than them because my father was a bank clerk at the time and he had a lot of money.
P. A priori, in Brazil, all children dream of being footballers.
R. Yes. I played as forward and goalkeeper. I had a lot of talent for soccer, but I grew so much that, when I was 14, I was offered to play basketball. My father spent a lot of time and money to succeed in football. If he had not reached anything in sports he would have been very frustrated.
P. He started with 14 years and with 16 he started to come to Europe, to Estudiantes.
R. I never imagined that everything was so filmed. The first year in Spain I had a very bad time because I came alone and it was a very big change, but afterwards everything started to fit. Very soon the NBA began to follow me. There are many who play all their lives and that opportunity never reaches them.
P. The horizon was always the NBA?
R. Yes. At 18 I saw clearly that I could make it to the NBA. I noticed in the tournaments that I played with the Brazilian team in the US. I knew that they came to see me scouts in Spain, but I wanted to prove myself against the Americans. I saw that he had qualities to spare. In 2012 I deleted the draft, but the following year I was elected in 16th place and I left happy and determined.
P. Did not have vertigo?
R. I had no fears or doubts, I started having them later, when I was there and I started not to play. I arrived as the best defender of the Spanish league, with great sensations, but the bench was killing me. I spent four difficult years.
P. What is not counted in the NBA?
R. It is a tough league. There are 420 jobs for 8 million players. Every day you have to fight for the position and every summer there are 60 new ones. It is very difficult to stay and you have to take advantage of any minimum opportunity. It is a hostile and individualistic environment in which you have to defend yourself. But that was not my problem. My ills were not on the track but outside. If I have the opportunity to return, I will do everything in a very different way.
P. What was wrong?
R. Seven years later I am still being persecuted for the fame that was created for me in Spain. People judge without knowing and if today I do not have work in the NBA, it's not because of technical issues, but because of the extra-sports life I had in Estudiantes. That fame was with me until the NBA. Besides, I do not like to lie and sincerity has cost me many millions of dollars. I hope I can walk the road again because I have changed radically, especially after the birth of my daughter.
P. What happened in those years?
R. He went out partying like a madman and drank. Nothing that any young person would not do with money. I left very young in Brazil. He came from a very conservative family; My parents would not let me leave the house. Suddenly, I saw myself in Madrid alone and charging 2,000 or 3,000 euros a month. I jumped at the party. I wanted to experience the world. I can not blame anyone. I'm not a hypocrite. I enjoyed it a lot and I paid it later. It was my learning. I let myself be dazzled and I realized later that, the moment you start charging for this, being young stops being an excuse and you have to respond like a professional.
P. What would it have been without that?
R. I come to Fuenlabrada to try to discover who I am, to approach the player I was. I lost all the confidence and happiness along the way. The challenge is to help my team but, above all, to show people that I am not the monster they think. I am working a lot on the psychological aspect with José Manuel Beirán.
P. How is your life now?
R. Very calm. I live in Majadahonda, I come to train in the mornings, then I eat and I take three or four hours of nap. I go to the movies a lot, I like scary movies and action. That tranquility helps me to rearm spiritually. Now everything I do I do thinking about my daughter. I no longer spend money coming out, I try to save it for her. I am divorced and she lives with her mother in Florida, I see her in summer. This week marks two years.
P. And, in sports, is it time to be important?
R.Hopefully. I think I'm young for life but I do not know if it's so much for basketball. The great challenge is to return to the NBA. I did not complete my mission and I know I fit there. There are no centers like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. Every day I'm better, but I'm frustrated that I'm not the beast I was when I was young. I am seven years and 20 kilos more than in the Student stage. I have to take advantage of my conditions now and my experience. For now, I value the moment and go step by step. I do not know what will become of me in a year.
P. Does it help to be in a dressing room with veterans with a lot of world who have overcome even wars like Eyenga and Popovic?
R. In Brazil we also have a war with 60,000 deaths per year. It is not a declared war, but there is no place where so many people die. The lack of security and corruption have sunk the country. Having 20 million people without work is unsustainable. That's why Bolsonaro had 50 million votes. The previous government was very corrupt.
P. Who are your idols?
R. In life, Jesus Christ and my brother. In sports, Kobe Bryant and Federer. Jesus Christ gave his life for me; my brother is my mirror and confessor; Kobe is a model of work and ambition and Federer of talent and elegance.
P. What will come after basketball?
R. Music. I love rock. In Toronto he played and sang in a group. Now I'm going to re-teach bass and guitar.