At a press conference held at the magnificent Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona on Tuesday, Pau Gasol announced that his legendary playing career has come to an end. Gasol, one of the most accomplished players in European basketball history, retired at the age of 41 after a professional career that spanned 23 seasons. In that time, Gasol stuffed his trophy case with a bevy to titles won with FC Barcelona, the Spanish national team and the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I am here today to tell you what you could more or less have already anticipated. I am retiring from professional basketball,” Gasol confirmed. “It is a tough decision, as you can imagine, after so many years, but it is a well-thought decision. We have to switch gears and be able to enjoy. One of the things that I also wanted was to finish [my career] playing and enjoying, not injured, on crutches or after surgery. So I am very thankful to those who contributed to making it happen. Being able to win another league title with Barcelona, the club where I started to play at age 16 and made my first-team debut at age 17, and playing my fifth Olympic Games with my teammates, is something very special.”
Gasol grew up in the FC Barcelona youth system and after he made his debut with the first team, exploded to become a dominant player in the Spanish League almost overnight. In 2001, Gasol led Barca to the Spanish Copa del Rey and was named MVP of the tournament. He played in six EuroLeague games in 2000-01, during which he averaged 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds to help Barcelona win its regular-season group. An injury kept Gasol out in the eighthfinals and Barcelona was eliminated. He was named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team for that season.
After that, Gasol was drafted by Memphis with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year the following season, launching an 18-year career in America highlighted by back-to-back NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010. Gasol is a six-time NBA All-Star and was chosen to the All-NBA Team on four occasions. In addition to Memphis and Los Angeles, he also suited up for Chicago, San Antonio and Milwaukee. Gasol played in a total of 1,226 games and averaged 17.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his career. His 20,894 career points are the second-most in NBA history among European players, behind only Dirk Nowitzki.
He returned to his boyhood club last season 20 years after he last played for Barcelona. Gasol averaged 4.6 points in seven games, helping Barcelona reach the EuroLeague Championship Game, which his team lost against Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Gasol and Barcelona then won the Spanish League as he put an end to a brilliant career.
“If my career finished then, which was likely, I was in peace, but at the same time, I wanted to be something different and exceptional. When things were going well, I had the opportunity, speaking with Juan Carlos [Navarro] and Saras [Jasikevicius] to sign for Barcelona, which was something I didn’t plan,” Gasol said. “I am thankful for their confidence and for giving me that opportunity, because those were special months, joining the team in March and playing my first game in April. I am very happy, made new friends with my teammates, and it was one of the most beautiful stages in my career. I was able to play again with ‘La Familia’, the Spanish national team, with my teammates. It was really special even when we were not able to win a medal, like we all wanted. Just being able to play again was a great success.”
Gasol was also a driving force in the Golden Generation of Spanish players that dominated international competitions in the first two decades of the century. He was the MVP of the 2006 Basketball World Cup in Japan, where Spain captured the crown for the first time. Under Gasol’s leadership, Spain also won the EuroBasket three times (2009, 2011, 2015) and captured a pair of silver medals (2003, 2007) and two bronzes (2001, 2017). Gasol and the Spanish national team won Olympic silver medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, plus a bronze in Rio 2016. Gasol is the third-best scorer in the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament history with 649 points, only trailing Oscar Schmidt (1,093) and Andrew Gaze (7899. He is also the EuroBasket’s all-time leading scorer with 1,183 points. Along with his brother Marc, Pau runs the Gasol Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating childhood obesity.