Brazil's Nene Vows to Retire by 2016 Olympics to Focus on Religion
Rio de Janeiro was just named host for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Is Denver Nuggets' center Nene, a native of Brazil, expecting to then play for his home country?
"In seven years, I'm retired in seven years,'' Nene said in an interview Saturday with FanHouse.
Nene, entering his eighth season, turned 27 last month, and would seem to still have some good years left in 2016 and beyond. Is he serious about retiring before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, when he will be just 33?
"Oh yeah,'' he said. "I'm serious.''
Nene, entering the fourth year of a six-year, $60 million contract, said he doesn't want to be a player who chases money. He plans to retire at a relatively young age to devote his life to God is the Answer, his Christian church in Brazil.
"Every year gets harder,'' said Nene, who vows to play at least five more NBA seasons, but offered no guarantee of even a sixth. "By seven, I'll stop. I won't go for more than seven because I have other goals. I have like a deal for my pastor. I want to get involved with the church right here in Brazil.
"If my financial situation is stable, why am I going to (want to) have more money? I'm not crazy for money. I think the best I can do is with the church ... I can help with things with my testimony.''
The devoutly religious Nene, who writes "Jesus'' on his shoes, believes he has a lot to offer his church. He is a cancer survivor, having undergone surgery for testicular cancer in January 2008.
Nene has had a number of injuries, including being lost for all but one game in 2005-06 due to a torn ACL. He has defended a lawsuit brought by his ex-manager, has fired an agent and has been through a divorce. He was married again earlier this year to a Colorado native.
"I can use my testimony to change people's lives,'' he said. "I can speak about what I've been through, all my injuries, being a cancer survivor, things like my ex-agent (Michael Coyne) and my ex-manager (Joe Santos, who lost a case against Nene in 2007 that sought several million dollars). I speak of all those things.''
Nene is sure he'll play at least five more seasons, which would take him through 2013-04, when he will be 31. But Nene offered no other timetable other than he will be retired by the 2016 Olympics.
While Nene plans to be nothing more than a spectator, he's still quite excited about Rio de Janeiro landing the Olympics.
"It's going to help a lot of kids get excited about sports,'' Nene said. "It's going to be a great support (in terms of additional facilities). I'm happy because (young Brazilian athletes) don't get a lot of things.''
Even without Nene, Brazil could have some current NBA players who won't be too old for the 2016 Games. Phoenix guard Leandro Barbosa and Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao both will be 33 then.
While he vows to play at least until 2014, Nene, who last played for Brazil in a 2007 Olympic qualifier, wouldn't speculate on whether that will include additional international play. Brazil has secured a berth for next year's World Championships in Turkey, and has a good chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Nene has gotten his Green Card, and plans within a few years to be a dual citizen in both Brazil and the U.S. He expects to divide his years in retirement between the two countries.
It's a retirement he said will come sooner than most expect.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com.