By Antonio Martín Guirado
Madrid, Oct 5 (EFE/EPA).- With 41 years, 18 seasons in the NBA, two championships and a brilliant career under his belt, Pau Gasol has bid farewell to basketball, a sport that will never forget his quality, class and astonishing ability at passing the ball.
Gasol’s legacy is bullet-proof. In 2002, he won Rookie of the Year when playing for the Memphis Grizzlies and became the first foreigner to achieve such an award in the NBA. The Spaniard was also chosen six times to play in the All-Star Game between the top players in the competition.
He was also a four-time All-NBA team selection, twice on the second team (2011, 2015) and twice on the third team (2009, 2010). But his greatest achievements were the three NBA Finals played as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and, above all, the two rings won consecutively with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson (2009, 2010).
His myriad achievements and his success with the Spanish National Team will likely guarantee him a place in the Hall of Fame. And who knows if, as Bryant predicted in 2018, his No. 16 jersey will one day hang from the top of the Staples Center, the Lakers pavilion, an honor exclusively reserved for the icons of the Californian franchise.
FERNANDO MARTÍN DREAMED BIG AND PAU GASOL OUTSTRIPPED HIM
Fernando Martín became the first Spaniard to achieve any basketball player’s dream by playing in the NBA in 1986. Twenty-three years later, Gasol exceeded this and became a key figure for the Lakers and a fundamental shield for Bryant.
Gasol made the extraordinary look like routine. He was chosen in third place in the draft – something unheard of at the time – and got basketball fans in Spain to stay up late and watch his immediate impact.
He didn’t miss a game during his first two years in the NBA. He debuted in the playoffs in 2004 and confirmed, step by step, that he was becoming one of the most well-rounded players in the League, with impressive numbers in scoring, rebounds, blocks and assists.
However, his talent was never well matched with the Grizzlies and the franchise failed to win a single playoff game with him as a leader.