Paul Gasol who is now in his 18th NBA season and signed with the Milwaukee Bucks hopefully to win one more championship before retirement. Pau is known around the league as one of the best international players, a true professional and ambassador of the game. However, when he was a little kid who just started playing basketball, he was influenced by Magic Johnson and the way Magic ran the famous Showtime Lakers. It was even a bigger shock for young Gasol when Magic announced he was infected by the HIV virus.
At that time, Gasol was an 11-year-old kid playing basketball, who actually thought his biggest basketball idol growing up would die, simply because people back then weren’t informed about the issue as they are today.
“I thought, ‘He’s going to die. At that time, HIV-AIDS equaled death. I was wandering around the school, just thinking about it, just wow. There was a lot of speculation on how you can catch it. You were afraid of sipping on somebody’s bottle of Coke or eating off the same plate. Things like that or saliva. Is it transmitted by blood only? As an 11-year-old, it’s a lot to take. It had an impact.”
At that moment he decided he wants to become a doctor, and actually enrolled into the medical school in Spain. Gasol played basketball professionally while at the same time attending school, but unfortunately, when his career took off he no longer had time to do both things so he solely dedicated his time for basketball. Despite choosing basketball over medicine, Gasol never forgot the basic training he received at the school.
Chief orthopedic surgent David Skaggs remembers a meeting with Gasol who came to his hospital and asked about various medical topics only someone who had previous education would actually ask about. This is something that came as a total surprise to Skaggs, who couldn’t believe an NBA player knew the medical terms that were very specific.
At Children’s Hospital he met with doctors in a conference room, quizzing them about their treatment of patients with scoliosis, asking how they ensure that their procedures do not stunt lung development. “We all looked at each other like, How does he know this stuff?” says Dr. David Skaggs, chief of orthopedic surgery. Next month Gasol is scheduled to sit in on a spinal surgery with Skaggs, dressed in scrubs. “We talk to him now almost like he is a surgical colleague,” Skaggs says.