The Brazilian Blur is quite a story-teller as well. In an article posted this week by the The Players’ Tribune, the 2003 draft pick of the Suns recalled his first day in Phoenix, a day that ended with the #28 pick sleeping on the locker room floor.
"The next day, I was in Arizona. I went from the airport straight to the arena. A few staff members from the Suns took me to the locker room and showed me my stall with my name, my jersey and my shoes.
When I saw my locker … with my name … man, it was something else.
I told them, through my translator, I wasn’t going back to the hotel that night. I wanted to sleep there.
‘But you can’t sleep here. There is no bed. This is just … the floor,’ they said.
I told them that this was way better than anything I had back home in Brazil. I said if they could see where I lived in São Paulo they would understand. I don’t think they could believe it. But I didn’t care. I wanted to be there that night.
There was a big TV, a fridge, and my name was on an NBA locker behind me. What else did I need?
I slept on the carpet of the locker room the whole night. It was one of the best sleeps of my life. The next day, I met two guys who would become family to me: Shawn Marion and Stephon Marbury.”
Marbury introduced Barbosa to important NBA things. Luxury automobiles and talking trash.
Over my first couple of months on Phoenix he took me under his wing. I’d spend hours at his house playing video games and chillin’. Whenever we went anywhere, he’d drive us in one of his fancy cars. I still couldn’t speak much English, which I think he liked because he could say anything to me. But when he played rap in the car … then we spoke the same language.
I knew the same music he did. Jay, Snoop, Dre, all those guys. My rapping was pretty bad, but Steph loved it. He’d turn the sound system all the way up in his Range Rover. Steph had so many cars. They were all so nice.
One day, a few weeks into our summer training, he pulled me aside after practice.
‘Hey, man, I got something for you.’
He took me outside and pointed at an Escalade. A brand new one.
‘No … no. I’m not going to take.’ I said.
‘I want you to have this. It’s a present from me to you. I love you, man. This is for you.’
I started crying right away. I really did. It was kind of tough for me to believe that he was giving me a car, you know? My life had been tough. I was used to struggling for food. But now, somebody was giving me a car?
I never ever forgot that feeling. Steph, man, he is family to me forever.
He even taught me English! Well … just the bad words. But he taught me how to use them, like in a good way — a trash-talking way.
He would be like: ‘Look, Leandro, this is how you use these words. So, when a game starts, look the guy you are guarding in the eyes. Look right into the back of his eyes. If he puts his head down, then you’ve won already. You’re on top of him. Go out and kick his ass. Then you start talking your shit. Say whatever you want to say. Get in his head.’
Steph did that so well. He’d go out there, talk his shit and back it up. He was a star.”
By 2008 Barbosa was a vital piece of the Suns’ organization. The year before he was named Sixth Man of the Year for a Phoenix team that won 61 games. But that likely does not prepare someone for encountering a “Big Nude Catcus.”
“In 2008, you couldn’t get to the paint against our Suns team. Well, maybe you could, but you weren’t coming back. I’d be around the hoop when one of the opposing team’s guards would cut towards Shaq. He’d smack the ball out of their hands and across the court and yell at the dude. Shaq was a friendly giant one moment and the most dominant center of all time the next moment. Shaq could switch in an instant from friendly giant to the most dominating center of all time. And his opponents never knew which they would be facing at any moment. It was so fun to watch. It was so fun to watch. Shaq would yell:
‘If you come over here again … man. I swear to God, I’ll f*** you up. I will. I’ll f***ing do it.’
Next possession, the guard would cut for the paint, look at Shaq, and kick the ball right out.
Shaq was a scary dude, for sure. But once you see somebody naked, you just see a different side of them. You ready for this story? You’re not ready.
It’s a game day, early in the afternoon. Shaq picks me up because we’re both heading to the trainer’s room to get some work done before tip-off. We get to the locker room, take our clothes off and go over to the rehab room. But the trainer isn’t there. We wait 15 minutes. We’re all there in towels, just sitting around waiting. Shaq is kind of upset at this point. So he takes off his towel (not sure why) and heads down to our trainer’s office. He opens the door and is like, ‘Are you coming? Or am I going to have to pick you up and take you?’
At first, the trainer can’t tell if Shaq is joking or not. Shaq takes a few steps closer and our trainer knows he’s not. So the trainer takes off — sprinting down the hall.
Shaq follows him, of course. Still butt-ass naked. Now Shaq is in a dead sprint down the hallway, running past arena workers and other staff, screaming at the top of his lungs. This is a normal business day. It’s a weekday.
Everyone is in official Suns gear or in suits. Shaq is in his birthday suit.
Just picture that, if you dare.
Future Hall of Famer, one of the greatest big men to ever play the game of basketball. And here he was, naked, chasing our tiny little trainer through the arena halls. I think the chase lasted 15 minutes. Which is a long time for the Big Nude Cactus to be loose in the arena.
That’s my friend, that’s Shaq.”