Credit: Fotodiena.lt, AFP, Zuma Press - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas
Credit Fotodiena.lt, AFP, Zuma Press - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas

No one could ever imagine that Pau Gasol will do what he did during a long and successful journey. Neither the best cinema director could have written a similar script to what the Spanish legend achieved. 

Pau Gasol

Pau  Gasol
Position: PF
Age: 41
Height: 213 cm
Weight: 113 kg
Birth place: Barcelona, Spain

It is not just about remarkable titles (2x NBA champion and 11 medals with the National Team). Pau was an example off the court. A model for the kids. An idol for the adults. A true competitor. A leader. The guy who led the best European generation since Yugoslavia in the '90s. 

Coming back after two years battling with an injury was his last title. Probably the one who recognized most his attitude and his passion for the basketball game. 

The flame was extinguished a few days ago in an austere but emotional ceremony. "I wanted to finish my career playing, not with crunches," said the Spanish center.

He got it. He was able to make an amazing speech, without reading, for almost 30 minutes. 

He just broke into tears when he remembered his friend Kobe Bryant.

That gives us an idea about his ability to communicate in public, probably one of his next challenges out of basketball. He will be part, among other things, of the Athletes Olympic Committee until 2028, when Los Angeles, the city where he dreamed higher, will host the Olympic Games. 

Credit AFP-Scanpix

It is not an easy task to write about Pau without forgetting something. Even more for the person who is putting his feelings into this white page.

I do not remember basketball without him. I grew up watching his journey since January 1999, when he made his ACB League debut at Cáceres. He played professional basketball for 22 years. I am 27. Ridiculous, isn't it?

When you heard Pau Gasol's name, some different city came to my mind. Málaga, Memphis, Saitama, Beijing, Los Angeles, London, Lille and Barcelona. Let's take a look. 

First of all, we will take the Delorean to visit Málaga. Spanish Cup, 2001. FC Barcelona, coached by the legend Aíto García Reneses, defeated Real Madrid in the final (80-77).

The Blaugranas had a great roster with players like Jasikevicius, Karnisovas, Digbeu, or Savic. 

But it was the youngest, Pau Gasol (20), who led the team with 25 points in the championship game. He was named MVP of the tournament. The world discovered who that skinny and beardless guy was. He definitely exploded that weekend. The NBA was coming.

We are going overseas now.

Memphis, 2001. After being selected in the Draft by the Atlanta Hawks and traded, Pau landed at the blues music city accompanied by his parents and his brother Marc.

It was a big change in his life. From Sant Boi (where he was born) to Memphis. Another world. The magician Jason Williams assisted Gasol in his first two NBA buckets. He dunked over Kevin Garnett in what is an iconical play.

Then, everything flew on. He was named Rookie of the Year. He led the Grizzlies in 2004 to its first appearance in the NBA Playoffs in the club's history. 

Saitama. FIBA World Cup 2006. The tournament when Spain conquered the basketball world, beating Greece in the final.

Interestingly, Pau did not play that game due to an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the tournament. He could not hide his emotions. Carlos Jiménez, the Spanish captain, let Pau raise the trophy on the podium with crunches.

Despite not playing in the championship game, Gasol was named MVP of the tournament, and he was also included in the best five. The beginning of an era with Spain. 

Beijing. First chapter against the United States of America. With young, 17-years-old, but dared Ricky Rubio. Spain reached the final after tough games against Croatia and Lithuania.

The Americans were the last step to the gold. Everyone wanted to see that game. In Spain, there were huge expectations. There were reasons to believe in a feat.

And they were close to accomplishing it. The final result was 107-118. Team USA had to do its best to get back the international scepter. Pau finished the tournament as the best scorer with a 19.6 points average. 

Los Angeles. Pau was traded to the Lakers in February 2008. Mid-season. His impact was immediate, ending his first game with the yellow shirt with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Nets.

Kobe's reaction was logical: "He is tremendous, he will help us a lot," said Bryant.

For sure, he did.

The Lakers won 29 of the last 37 games of the Regular Season, entering the Playoffs as the main favorite in the Western Conference. They arrived at the NBA Finals, losing against the Boston Celtics. 

Just before starting the 2008-09 season, in the first preseason practice, Kobe Bryant was in the locker room waiting for Pau.

He put his gold Olympic medal in Pau's locker room. When the Spaniard arrived, he saw it. At first, he thought it was a kind of joke. But when he turned around, Kobe was looking at him and said: "You have lost two consecutive finals (NBA and Olympic Games). You don't want to lose another one, right? Let's work together to win the NBA."

That was the beginning of a historic season for the Lakers, winning the championship against the Magic. Then, they got the back-to-back titles in 2010, revenging from the 2008 final against the Celtics.

Pau was the key factor of that Lakers. The guy who allowed Phil Jackson's team to take a step up. That's why he will have his number 16 retired at the top of the Staples Center.

London. Olympic Games. Final. Once again, the United States. Round 2. Spain was spectacular that day. Pau was punishing Chandler and Love in the paint. Scariolo's guys dreamed until the last three minutes of the game (97-91), but Kevin Durant and LeBron James had other thoughts.

In the end, all Team USA went to Spain's bench to greet and recognize Pau Gasol's effort. Those hugs were a good reflection of what a group of superstars thought about Pau's figure. Greatness recognizes greatness. 

Credit AFP – Scanpix

Lille. Eurobasket 2015. Semifinals. Spain was seeking another final after a disappointing FIBA World Cup 2014 as a host.

France was looking for a gold medal in front of their own fans. The narrative aimed to have the Bleus on the top. But Pau Gasol had other plans. He destroyed Rudy Gobert in one of the most outstanding performances of FIBA basketball.

Pau scored 40 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and drew 11 fouls. Like Michael Jordan did in Space Jam. A lot of people remember that game as probably the one with more shouts of joy. Spain won the gold medal.

Barcelona. The last chapter. The most emotional one. As we said at the beginning of the article, no cinema director could have designed something like this. Coming back to your home 20 years later, overcoming a terrific injury.

The young, skinny, and beardless boy returned as a legend and parent. With the same humility and hunger. He made his "debut" against Bayern in Euroleague, showing he never forgot how to play basketball.

He helped FC Barcelona to win the ACB League (his 3rd), being one of the most efficient players in the ACB Playoffs history. The only thorn, not having won the Euroleague. 

He is not a basketball player, he is an icon. He let us dream. He made us smile. He forced us to believe in a team, whatever it happened. He showed commitment. He has won everything. He has an impact reaching way more than the basketball court. He helps the underprivileged and inspires young kids to this day.

He is the one and only Pau Gasol. Thank you.

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