Pau Gasol, one of the leagues most underrated big men celebrated his 38th birthday yesterday. He proved himself during the years as a player who can take over the game on offense like non-other while still protecting the paint on defense.
Both Gasol's mother Marisa, a medical doctor, and father Agustí, a hospital administrator, played second-division basketball in Spain. His brother Marc is also an all-star in the NBA while his young brother is playing semi-professional basketball in Spain.
At age 12, watching the original Dream Team on television win the Olympic Gold Medal during the 1992 Barcelona Games provided Gasol's first exposure to American NBA players. When Gasol heard of Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis, he thought not of eventually leading the Lakers to an NBA title, but instead yearned to be a doctor and to find a cure for AIDS.
He was the No. 3 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft and often compared to European NBA players Toni Kukoc (Croatia) and Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) for his scoring and rebounding prowess, as well as his quick adjustment to the more aggressive American style of play.
In 2006, in a career first, Gasol was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game as a reserve center for the Western Conference. He was the first Spanish player and first Grizzlies to make an appearance in the All-Star Game. He would eventually become a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star and is the Memphis Grizzlies all-time leading scorer.
In 2008, after seven seasons with the Grizzlies, Gasol was traded to the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers in a complicated package deal that included other players, future first-round draft picks and draft rights for trading his younger brother, Marc Gasol, to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Knowing how to play” is a fairly open-ended statement, but it speaks to the savviness and versatility Gasol provides. Marc Gasol said he thinks the all-around nature of his brother’s game reflects his ongoing development as a player.
“When he was growing up, he was more of a forward, an outside kind of player,” Marc said. “He liked to shoot the ball. But when he got here, he realized he had to play more with his back to the basket and put on some weight, so he did that.
Establishing a quick relationship with Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, Gasol helped the team win 2 NBA championships and was a crucial piece during those playoffs runs. He was a solid contributor in Chicago as well, and now at 38-years of age is still an important bench player for the veteran Spurs team.
Gasol also established a successful career playing on numerous tournaments for his Spanish national team, winning numerous medals in the past 20 years. Playing with his brother, Marc, he led Spain to a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He also won a gold medal with Spain during the 2006 FIBA World Championships and was named MVP of the tournament.
At this point in his career, Gasol’s game doesn’t hinge on athleticism so much as on IQ, shooting, and passing. Only two players in NBA history have averaged at least 10, 8, and 3 in their year-37 season and beyond: Karl Malone (who did it three times), and Pau Gasol this season.
Gasol is a double-double machine, having recorded over 550 double-doubles in his NBA career. On April 2, 2016, he became the 36th player in NBA history to reach the 10,000-point/10,000-rebound mark. While Gasol became the 43rd player in NBA history to reach to the 20,000-point milestone, he is just the fourth with that many points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists, and 1,500 blocks.