Pau Gasol

“I Face Each Day As A New Opportunity To Give My Best”

09/02/2019 · By Alfonso S. Lozano

The best Spanish basketball player in history welcomes us on the training court of the Milwaukee Bucks. He is recovering from an injury that made him miss the NBA Playoffs and will also keep him from joining the Spanish team in the 2019 World Cup. A chat about challenges and talent.

At 39, Pau Gasol takes on these problems as just another way to motivate himself: “You have to accept injuries as part of your life, your work. I know that Im privileged. I’m doing what I like, and fortunately I haven’t been injured like this before. So, I see it as a challenge. A challenge that is recovery, a challenge that will be continuing to play in the NBA at 39. And I set goals for myself, objectives that motivate me and keep me happy and wanting to continue working—and wanting to see how far I can get.”

Gasol has hobbies away from the basketball court: “When you’re an athlete and the pressure and the level of demand are so high, you have to do things that balance everything out and compensate for all that stress and tension. I chose nature, culture and reading.”

Phil Jackson, his coach at the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won two Championship rings alongside NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, cultivated this interest in reading. “On a long tour we had in January or February, Phil gave me and my teammates a book that had a connection with each player. Like Popovich (the San Antonio Spurs coach), he tried to encourage reading, to let us be more than basketball players, athletes. To let us be aware that there are other and more important things in life than sport. The sooner you find out, the better. Not only do you have to train players, you have to train people.”

This, forming people, is what Pau Gasol has been doing in his Academy for over 15 years. “We try to give it a twist, to make it a different academy, very close to my values, principles and goals. We also grant scholarships to kids to study in the United States and continue their education here.” True to his motto ‘every day is the first day’, Pau tries to spread that philosophy to everyone around him. “This is the way I live, and I preach by example. I face each day as a new opportunity to give my best. That’s the path that usually leads to fruition.”

The level of sports excellence that he has maintained for many years has allowed him to have a positive social impact. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and, together with his brother Marc, has created the Gasol Foundation. “Our goal is to reduce and, eventually, eliminate childhood obesity. For children to grow up healthy, be able to get where they want and have a healthy and full life.”

With three Olympic medals and the 2006 World Championship under his belt, Pau won’t be able to be at the 2019 World Cup in China this summer because of a foot injury. His goal with the Spanish team is to reach the Tokyo Olympics. “It’s one of my dreams. But first there is the World Cup, where we have to qualify. Then there are a number of factors, such as me being in good health, playing next season without problems, and getting to the summer well. And the coach counting on you, which you can never take for granted no matter how much you achieve.”

The most immediate goal for Pau Gasol, apart from recovering from his injury, is to choose a team for the next season. He had a contract with the Milwaukee Bucks until June 30. After that, anything can happen. “I’ve learned to deal with uncertainty throughout my career. It’s normal to me, though not easy. But it’s part of my profession. What team will I play for in the NBA? I don’t know, but the key is it’s going to be in the NBA. It’ll be my 19th season here.” Something that he couldn’t even imagine when he arrived at the Memphis Grizzlies in 2001. “You work every day to be better, without setting yourself any limits, and that’s all you work for. And then you reach the end and you say: I’ve done quite well, or very well, in my case. You don’t think beyond that. I didn’t think everything would go so great, that I would have the great luck of being surrounded by great teammates and coaches, and people who’ve supported me and helped me to get here.”