By TALES AZZONI, AP sports writer
MADRID (AP) – Wishing his “older brother” Kobe Bryant was there by his side, Pau Gasol finally ended a basketball career that went “far beyond my dreams and expectations”.
Gasol announced his retirement from basketball on Tuesday after a career that spanned more than two decades and earned him two NBA titles and a world championship gold medal with the Spanish national team.
“At the end of the day, playing until I’m 41, with everything I’ve done, I think it’s not bad,” Gasol said. “I am very happy and very grateful to have the career that I have had and to have received so much affection and support.
Gasol had already said his farewell to international basketball in August after Spain’s loss to the United States in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Games, which marked its fifth Olympics.
Gasol had been with Spanish club Barcelona since February. His career was at a standstill before that due to a left foot injury that kept him from playing for almost two years.
“I’m going to retire from professional basketball,” Gasol said. “It’s a tough decision after so many years, but it’s a decision I’ve really thought about.”
The retirement announcement was made during an event held at a Barcelona opera house attended by former teammates and family members including his wife, young daughter and younger brother Marc.
Gasol choked on mentioning someone missing – Bryant, his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, who died in a helicopter crash last year.
“I really would have liked him to be here,” Gasol said. “Sometimes life can be very unfair and we miss him and his daughter ‘Gigi’ very much. He taught me to be a better leader, a better competitor. He showed me what it means to be a winner. have always thought of him as my older brother, so thanks, Kobe.
Gasol said it was risky to continue playing because his broken foot might get worse and he might “only be able to swim and cycle for the rest of his life”. He said he had “a desire to be home more, to spend more time doing other things.
Gasol said he had done everything to recover from his foot injury and was happy to be able to fulfill his dream of playing in front of his daughter.
“It has been one of the best times of my career,” he said. “And playing with the Spanish national team again was something very special. We couldn’t come away with a medal (at the Tokyo Olympics), but just being able to play was a great success for me.
Gasol won two NBA titles with the Lakers, in 2009 and 2010, and averaged 17 points and 9.2 rebounds in 1,226 regular season games with five NBA teams, playing as a center and power forward. His other teams were the Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, and Milwaukee Bucks. He was the third pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, selected by Atlanta and traded to Memphis.
Gasol last played in the NBA with the Bucks in 2019. He signed with the Portland Trail Blazers that year but never got to play.
Gasol won a world title with Spain in 2006, in addition to European titles in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
He helped Spain win Olympic silver medals in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, as well as a bronze medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Gasol recently won an election to represent athletes for the next seven years on the International Olympic Committee. He joined a roster of IOC members from royal families in Europe and the Middle East, international sporting bodies, business leaders and 12 athletes elected by their peers.
Gasol said he has been preparing for life after retirement for some time and will launch new projects that will include work with his foundation, the IOC and with UNICEF.
He said he could get into consulting and the executive world, and has already started contacting some NBA teams to discuss ideas.
“I tried to be the best that I could, but if you take on this leadership role, you have to take certain responsibilities and that’s what I want to do,” Gasol said. “I want to give back to sport and to society everything they have given me.”
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