The Cleveland Cavaliers, with the help of Anderson Varejao, are continuing to expand their reach worldwide and helping more people get into the game of basketball by renovating old courts in Brazil.
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The latest project took place in the coastal city of Vitória, Espírito Santo, with the organization transforming the basketball courts of Clube de Regatas Saldanha da Gama, whose athletic facility was founded in 1902 and helped develop Varejao’s love and talent for the sport.
Varejao, who played most of his career for the Cavs and serves as a global ambassador and athlete development consultant for the franchise, expressed excitement for the recent undertaking.
“This is truly a full circle moment for me,” he said. “Saldanha da Gama has always held a special place in my heart. To be able to transform the very courts I grew up playing on and to invest in kids living in and around my local community is a dream come true –- and we’re just getting started. I’m excited to see this partnership with the Cavaliers continue to grow and spread the passion and joy of the game with people across the country.”
As the 40-year-old mentioned, he and the Cavs have just begun. The renovation of the Vitória club is already the second such move from the team. In April 2023, it also rebuilt a basketball court in São Paulo.
It has been a couple of years since Varejao last suited up for Cleveland. He played his last NBA contest late in the 2020-21 campaign and retired in the ensuing offseason. Prior to that season, the former Cavs fan favorite played in a professional league in Brazil.
The 6-foot-11 big man got his opportunity in the NBA after being selected by the Orlando Magic with the 30th overall pick of the 2004 draft. In the same offseason, he was traded to Cleveland, where he immediately made an impact as a solid rebounder and hustle guy off the bench.
Varejao helped the squad in its playoff runs from the 2005-06 season to the 2009-10 season and remained loyal to the team even after LeBron James left for the Miami Heat in the 2010 offseason.
He had arguably the best stretch of his career in the 2012-13 campaign, averaging 14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per match in 25 of Cleveland’s first 26 contests. Unfortunately, a blood clot in his lung forced him to sit out the rest of the season.
Interestingly, Varejao could have secured a ring with the Cavs in 2016 because he made 31 appearances for the organization in the beginning of the 2015-16 season. But by some twist of fate, he ended up signing with the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland’s 2016 Finals opponents, after getting shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers and subsequently waived midseason.
The Cavs offered him a championship ring, but he declined.
Fortunately for Varejao, he eventually did earn a ring the following season despite being waived by the Warriors before their title run in the 2017 playoffs.