But all the while, he kept the faith. Check out what he had to say about a year after his cancer diagnosis when he had a perfect 12-for-12, 28-point performance against Utah.
“It's a blessing, you know?” he said. “It's a blessing of God in my life because of all the things that I've been through. His promise has come through right now.”
With all the trials and tribulations that Nene has overcome, it's almost as if he's the South American version of Perkins.
Big Tex is probably scowling at the comparison right now.
Which brings us back to the mission at hand — coming up with something Thunder fans can dislike about Nene.
There's the hair, sometimes in cornrows, sometimes poofy, always a little bit wacky.
There's the way he always seems to dunk with just one hand. What's up with that?
And then, there's the name.
Hey, this is the NBA, not the Premier League.
Having just one name might be cool if you play soccer or made massively popular pop albums in the 80s, but since when did basketball players start going around deciding that they wanted to go by only one name?
At least he could've gone with one that's easy to pronounce. For the record, Nene is pronounced Nuh-NAY, but if you ask me to pronounce it five minutes from now, I'd have to look it up again.
Heck, Nene is not even his given name. It was a nickname given to him because he was the youngest in the family. It means baby in Portuguese.
He was born Maybyner Rodney Hilario.
Hmm, maybe that's why he changed his name.
See, Thunder fans, channeling Perkins and making someone the bad guy isn't so difficult. Maybe you're already working up a good loathing for Nene. Perhaps you're even trying to figure out how you can get under his skin.
Just remember, he changed his name to Nene, the word for baby. That means his name is Baby.
That's right, Baby.
And if that doesn't get him, you could really go for the knock-out punch.
Call him Hilario.
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THE NENE FILE
Weight: 250 pounds
Born: Sept. 13, 1982 in Sao Carlos, Brazil
Years pro: 8
2010-11 averages: 14.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks
Career averages: 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.9 blocks
Nene was a nickname given to Maybyner Rodney Hilario, who was the youngest in his family and always hung out with a group of older kids. “Nene” means “baby” in Portuguese. He legally changed his name to it in 2003.
Plays bass guitar.
Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2008. He missed more than two months of the 2007-08 season, but the following season, he had a career year with career-high averages in points and rebounds.
Favorite teams are soccer squads — Sao Paulo in the Brazilian league and FC Barcelona.
Does extensive charity work in his homeland of Brazil, including hosting a gospel event there for the past three summers and sponsoring more than 50 athletes in his hometown.