Pau Gasol and his last Olympic challenge

Living legend of Spanish basketball, Pau Gasol faces his fifth Olympic Games, while maintaining uncertainty about his future and the possible end of a career that began two decades ago with the ‘Junior de Oro’.

“I am fully focused on this month and a half that comes with the national team. From there I will consider the future. I do not rule out absolutely that it is going,” Gasol said in June, a few days after winning the Spanish league with Barcelona.

“Now I have a family with a little girl and you have to know when to turn the page and move on to other things,” added the Spanish pivot, who along with his wife Catherine had little Elisabet Gianna in September 2020.

Guided by his desire to reach the Olympic Games, Gasol signed last February until the end of the season for Barcelona.

In April, Gasol returned to compete, after two seasons without playing due to a fracture in the tarsal scaphoid in his left foot, to end up taking the league, although he returned to stay at the gates of the Euroleague, the only title that is missing.

– Success in the NBA –

The Spanish giant, 2.15m tall, scored his second league with Barça since he won in his first season as a member of the Barça first team (2000-2001), the team where he was formed.

At the end of that season, Gasol made the jump as number 3 in the draft to the NBA, where he would begin to build his legend by spending two decades with the Memphis Grizzlies (2001-2008), where he was recognized as rookie of the year, and the Los Angeles Lakers (2008-2014), where he would live his greatest glory.

Wearing the Lakers jersey, he won the 2009 and 2010 championship with his great friend Kobe Bryant, whom he was very close to and whose family he accompanied in May in the introduction of the late basketball star into the “Hall of Fame” of the NBA.

“My daughter’s full name is Elisabet Gianna Gasol and having Gianna there represents a lot to us,” Gasol said in a documentary, referring to Gianna, one of Kobe’s daughters, killed in the same helicopter accident as her father. .

From the Lakers he went through Chicago Bulls (2014-2016), San Antonio Spurs (2016-2019) and throughout 2019 by Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers, from where he would return to Europe looking at Tokyo and continue to increase his considerable record with the Spanish selection.

The last survivor of the “gold juniors” of the José Manuel Calderón, Felipe Reyes or Juan Carlos Navarro, who gave so much joy to Spanish basketball, aims for his fifth Olympic Games and a fourth medal after the silver of Beijing-2008 and London -2012 and bronze in Rio-2016.

– Last challenge with Spain? –

“I am very excited,” Gasol said at the end of last month, admitting that “I understand that my role will be different, but with the desire to work and enjoy with my colleagues.”

“It will be my last championship with the national team and it is a very beautiful challenge,” he had advanced in the presentation of the Olympic team.

A fourth metal in Tokyo would be the culmination of his career with the national jersey, which began with his victory at the 1999 Junior World Cup.

He would continue to triumph in the 2006 World Cup, where he was named best player of the tournament, and although his foot injury prevented him from being in the 2019 World Cup that Spain won, he has three golds in European championships (2009, 2011, 2015) , two silvers (2003, 2007) and two bronzes (2001, 2017).

A track record as great as the solidarity facet of this champion, who with his Gasol foundation fights against childhood obesity and tries to promote healthy habits among children and their families.

A great friend of tennis player Rafa Nadal, both launched an initiative with the Red Cross to raise funds against covid-19 at the worst moment of the pandemic.

Now he faces a new challenge in Tokyo, who knows if the last one before hanging up his boots?

gr / gh