Tony Azevedo, widely considered the best men’s water polo player in U.S. history, will play his last match for Team USA on Sunday at his alma mater, Stanford University.
The game is the second of four in which Team USA, which Azevedo has captained since 2005, is playing against world-power Croatia, beginning Friday in Riverside, California. The games are in preparation for the FINA World League Super Final in Moscow later this month.
But Azevedo, 35, won’t be going to Moscow. He’ll climb out of the pool for the last time at the place where “I was molded into the person/player I am today,” he said in a statement. “I met my wife at Stanford … and made best friends for life on campus.”
The match at Stanford begins at 3:30 p.m. PT. From noon-1:30 p.m. Azevedo will host a clinic with Team USA coach Dejan Udovicic.
Here’s a look back at Azevedo’s career, by the numbers:
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No. 1: In 2015, the Pac-12 Conference turned 100 and Azevedo was named its water polo athlete of the century.
2: NCAA titles Azevedo won with Stanford. He was the MVP of the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and 2002, but the Cardinal fell to USC in the title game in 2003 and UCLA in 2004. He was inducted into Stanford’s hall of fame in 2016.
3: Members of the Azevedo family who play or have played water polo. Azevedo’s biggest influence has been his father, Rick Azevedo, who is a former men's national team coach. His sister, Cassie, was recently inducted into the Long Beach State Hall of Fame, and played professionally in Hungary and Italy for four years.
4: Peter J. Cutino Awards — the water polo equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — won by Azevedo. Also, the number of California Interscholastic Federation state championships with Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach. He was named MVP all four years.
5: Olympic Games in which Azevedo competed (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), a record for a water polo player. The best finish for Team USA during that time was a silver medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing. It was the American men’s first Olympic medal in water polo in 20 years. Five is also the number of Pan American Games gold medals won by Team USA with Azevedo (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015).
6: Club teams to have Azevedo on the roster. They are CAN Bissolati in Italy, J.K. Primorac in Montenegro, VK Jug in Croatia, Fluminense in Brazil and most recently another Brazilian club, Sesi. Azevedo was born in Brazil, but his family moved to the United States when he was 1 month old. In the United States, where there is no pro league, Azevedo has helped the New York Athletic Club to six national titles.
7: Azevedo’s ranking on Men’s Journal magazine’s list of best male athletes in 2003.
8: His uniform number with Team USA. Also, the number of FINA World Championships he competed in, a water polo record.
11: League titles with his club teams, including the six with the New York Athletic Club.
12: World League Super Finals in which Azevedo competed. He helped Team USA win two silvers (2008, 2016) and a bronze (2003).
19: Goals scored by Azevedo at 2007 world championships in Melbourne, Australia – the most of the tournament.
27: Years Azevedo has played water polo, beginning in youth leagues.
33: Goals scored by Azevedo at 2003 Pan Am Games — tops of the tournament.
60: Azevedo’s Olympic goals scored (13 in 2000, 15 in 2004, 17 in 2008, 10 in 2012, 5 in 2016).
332: Goals Azevedo scored for Stanford, a school record that shattered the previous record of 235.
Unfortunately, not even Azevedo knows how many games he has played for Team USA, or how many goals he has scored, and stat-keeping was spotty in the beginning of his career.
But it’s safe to say both numbers are astronomical. Besides, mere numbers don’t do justice to Tony Azevedo, the greatest men’s water polo player the country has produced.
G. Allen Johnson is a writer based in San Francisco. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.