Our first guest of Season 3 of the Legends Of Sport podcast is two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol.
Gasol is in his 19th season with the NBA and recovering from surgery on his left foot. Gasol first began playing basketball while growing up in Barcelona and recalls playing basketball games outdoors and watching NBA games on tape delay and broadcast.
He was a 12-year-old basketball player when the “Dream Team,” the 1992 men’s Olympic basketball team, won gold in Barcelona. Although he wasn’t able to see the Dream Team play live, he did attend other Olympic basketball events. He said that the energy of having the team in Spain helped fuel his NBA dreams.
“It was surreal to have those incredible athletes in our city,” Gasol said. “Just to know that the Dream Team was there, it really inspired a generation of players…it made kids like me dream of playing in the NBA.”
Gasol decided to pursue basketball after studying medicine at the University of Barcelona. He was selected in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks then traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He was the first non-American to win the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2002 with the Memphis Grizzlies. When he was selected by the NBA, his entire family moved to Memphis.
His accomplishments includel a FIBA World Cup title, three EuroBasket titles, two Olympic silver medals, and an Olympic bronze medal with the Spanish national basketball team. He won two EuroBasket MVP awards and two FIBA MVP awards. Gasol is also the all-time leading scorer in the EuroBasket.
Gasol has played throughout the 2011 NBA Lockout which shut down the league for 161 days. The current season pause includes all sports and public events but Gasol is staying optimistic about both the NBA and the Olympics returning – the only question is which will come back first.
“We got to understand what’s important. What’s the priority here – it’s the safety of us and our families,” Gasol said.
Listen to the full podcast here for deatils on Gasol’s charitable endeavors and his memories of the late Kobe Bryant.