Credit: AFP-Scanpix
Credit AFP-Scanpix

Spanish legend Pau Gasol announced on Tuesday that he is retiring from basketball at the age of 41.

The former NBA player, back-to-back champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, explained his decision at Liceu, the most important theater in Barcelona. 

"After too many years, it is really difficult to make this decision, but it is a well thought one. I have to change gears. I wanted to finish on the court, not on crutches. And I could do it", he started.  

Pau remembered all the pain he suffered during his last injury, leaving him out of court for two years.

"The doctors were not optimistic with the diagnosis, but I always have the goal to play basketball again. Even it was not an easy recovery, thanks to the doctors, we were able to achieve it."

Gasol came back to Europe a few months ago, signing with FC Barcelona, the club where he started his career.

"I had an opportunity to sign with my club. I talked to Juan Carlos Navarro first, then with Sarunas Jasikevicius. It was not in my plans, to be honest. These months have been really special for me.

My first practice was in March, and the first game was in April. I have made a lot of friends, I am really pleased with all of them," said the legendary forward.

Asked about how he wanted to be remembered, Gasol shared his opinion.

"I'd love to be remembered as a player who enjoyed, gave everything... and, come on, who play until 41. Not bad at all! I'm grateful to have had this career."

During his statement, which took almost thirty minutes, Gasol praised all the people who have been with him since the beginning and throughout his long career.

The Spanish legend recognized the work of all his coaches, the support of the fans, and all his teammates. Some of them, as Marc Gasol, Felipe Reyes, Jorge Garbajosa, Juan Carlos Navarro, Sarunas Jasikevicius or Rudy Fernandez were among the guests during the ceremony.

Gasol's last tournament was with the Spanish National Team at the Olympic Games with some of those players.

"Playing again with La Familia was something I've always dreamt. It was a great success to play again, but do it with my country is unique".

Gasol broke down in tears when he remembered his friend and teammate Kobe Bryant.

"I'd like very much that he was here today. Life is sometimes unfair. Kobe taught me to be a better leader, a better competitor, and a true winner. I will always consider him as a big brother. Thanks, Kobe.", he said.

Gasol thanked some specific people who have helped him during his career.

"Miguel taught me, when I was 6-7 years old, the triple threat. In an old-red court. Then, Pepe Casal forced me to work on my body if I wanted to play against adults. I did it, firstly in Europe and then in the NBA.

I was really skinny, so it made sense. Joaquín, my physio, we have been together for 17 years. Raul Lopez helped me a lot to come back after my injury. His experience was crucial."

Aíto Garcia Reneses, Gregg Popovich, or Phil Jackson, three of the best coaches ever, were also mentioned.

"Aito gave me the opportunity to play in FC Barcelona and was the first one who taught me that there is much more than basketball. Afterward, Phil (Jackson) and Gregg (Popovich) emphasized the importance of reading."

Gasol, who carries on his Academy for sixteen years, also gave some advice related to basketball.

"Before the player's performance, it's more important to think about how a young player develops.

When I was 18 years old, someone told me that the most important thing was not reaching the top but keeping on with it. I have tried not also to keep on it, but also to improve year by year," he said.

Gasol leaves a huge list of accomplishments throughout his career, including 2 NBA titles, 3 ACB Leagues, 6x NBA All-Star, rookie of the year in 2002, and 11 medals with the Spanish National Team (3 Olympics medals, one FIBA World Cup gold medal in 2006 and three Eurobasket gold medals).

Even more than for his numbers, Gasol will be remembered as one of the most involved players in social issues. He carries on, next to his brother Marc, the Gasol Foundation. 

Now he will focus on different projects, such as his Foundation, representing FC Barcelona around the world as an ambassador, and being part of the Olympics Athletes Committee. 

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