By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
It took some time, but it was meant to be for Pau Gasol to rejoin FC Barcelona, twenty years separated from his departure and the launch of his NBA career. Even if the player himself didn’t confirm the deal and added that he will make himself any announcement concerning his future via his social media, this seems to be a natural match.
He will turn 41 prior to the Tokyo Games but is looking to be part of Sergio Scariolo’s Olympic squad and represent Spain at this highest level of international basketball for the fifth time. He is definitely not going to hold back in order to meet this goal.
“Now I have more time to recover, but I will have to play competitively in order to get to summer of 2021 at a high level and be able to compete and help my country,” he told the Olympic Channel in April regarding the postponement of the Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, “I’ll be 41 which is a challenge. And it’s something that might excite me, being a very challenge-driven person and very ambitious always. And it is very much still a desire to be able to play my fifth Olympics and potentially that being my very last tournament.”
One step back here. Making five separate appearances in the Olympic Games is rare for any athlete. His special connection to La Roja features plenty of success, namely three Olympic medals, gold in the 2006 World Cup, and even more EuroBasket triumphs, but wearing Spain’s jersey went way beyond those medals. Despite mostly lengthy NBA campaigns, he was always present for the national team solidifying his status as one of the best-ever European players. A true groundbreaker for Spanish basketball ultimately forcing fans to rank Spain among the main attractions of FIBA tournaments these past decades.
So, making it to the Olympics for the fifth time is the next and likely the last challenge for Gasol. The Barcelona-born center took on and completed nearly every task he faced since he began to play basketball at a very young age. At 16, he joined the Barcelona junior team and midway through the 1998-99 season made his senior debut. He competed in 69 ACB contests through his three seasons at Barca and also displayed his promising aspects in six EuroLeague games back in 2000.
Gasol, as the third pick of the 2001 NBA draft, went across the Atlantic and was attached to the Memphis Grizzlies for six full seasons. His seventh was cut short after being sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade including his younger brother, Marc. His 2008-2014 run with the Lakers earned him his two championship rings after becoming the first Spaniard to play in the NBA finals. He joined the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in 2014 and two years later signed with the San Antonio Spurs. A declining path due to several injuries was apparent in his last two NBA stops as he was held to only three games with the Milwaukee Bucks and never actually played for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The six-time All-Star holds career averages of 17 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.6 blocks per Regular Season tilt. At the playoffs level, he put up 15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks per match. A grand total of 1,362 games with more than 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds.
His path brings him back to where it all began, in Barcelona. Getting in shape and preparing for the Olympic Games triggered his return. Barca and EuroLeague fans are in for a treat.