On July 6, 1980 Earth was blessed with the arrival of Pau Gasol. The Spanish forward entered the NBA billed as the next international sensation akin of Dirk Nowitzki because of their similar height and touch. Born to a family of doctors, Gasol’s high basketball IQ separates him from many of his contemporaries- armed with a well developed overall game young Pau would survey the scene and attack accordingly. Hot spots from the post and midrange result in hook shots and jumpers for the skilled Spaniard.
As the third pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, Pau started his career in Vancouver, BC with a Grizzlies squad that would shortly relocate to Memphis. Gasol instantly showcased his refined game during his rookie campaign. A formidable average of 17 points and 9 rebounds resulted in winning Rookie Of The Year and being named 1st Team All-Rookie. Throwback best describes Gaol’s game – NBA forwards were becoming more nimble with better permitter skills but Pau found ways to be ultra efficient in slowed down, low block attacks. Foolish defenders underestimated Pau’s relative speed for his size; smaller defenders got dunked on and larger adversaries were put on spin cycle. Check out some highlights of the x2 Olympic Silver Medalist putting in prime work:
In what many NBA fans view as one of the worst trades of the 2000’s the Grizzlies shipped Pau to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, his brother Marc and draft picks half way through the 2008 season. The trade ended up being the backbone of LA’s championship run as Kobe and Pau meshed perfectly into an unstoppable duo. Playing for the Lakers resulted in improved national visibility and more fans began taking note of the Spanish forward as All-Star appearances (six in total with Memphis, LA and Chicago) and All-NBA teams followed suit. Mutual respect and admiration between him and Kobe made it so both players could be open with one another. Kobe famously told Pau to “put his big boy pants on” after a loss in 2012. Bryant considers Pau on of his few true NBA friends (they speak spanish to each other). Like I said, their skills complimented each other beautifully. Pau’s beta mentality paired with Kobes strong alpha personality perfectly. Their friendship and teamwork resulted in 3 straight Finals appearances and 2 championship rings (2009, 2010). A messy exit in 2014 from LA landed Pau in Chicago where he’d continue to produce until he landed in San Antonio at the start of the 2016 season (where his numbers and efficiency tapered off).
Show me another 7-footer with this kind of fast break skill… SHOWTIME!
So… Kobe didn’t pass… remember?
The relationship between Pau and his outfitter, Nike, has always been fruitful. Nike loves to push international marketing and Pau fit their needs as both star of the Lakers and national basketball hero of Spain. We briefly touched on this earlier in the week, but Nike always uses the Olympics as a platform to showcase new product. Pau, being the face of Spanish basketball since ’99 allowed Nike to debut their Hyperdunk lines on the feet of true European star (not to mention Spain’s red and yellow national colors look killer on basketball shoes). Check out some of Pau’s best Nike shoes (mostly Hyperdunks lol) and be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday!