At 5:37 p.m., the lights went out in the Foyer of the emblematic Liceu in Barcelona and the spotlight was on Pau Gasol Sáez. After hugging her brothers Marc and Adrià, and her parents Agustí and Marisa, she announced, visibly excited, who, at 41, is leaving. The best player in the history of Spanish basketball, impeccably dressed, walked to the stool to become a legend. “Weighing everything up, I am going to tell you what you have anticipated. I retire from professional basketballl. It is a difficult decision, but it is considered. You have to change gears. He wanted to end up playing and enjoying himself, not with crutches and an operation. I am grateful for, before I left, having been able to win a league with the team I started playing for when I was 18 years old, Barça. My career has exceeded my dreams“Said a visibly moved Pau who used Spanish as a language in his speech although he truffled it with Catalan, the language he speaks with his family (” el teu cor ès molt especial “, he told his brother Marc very excited), and English, to address his wife Catherine McDonell, who was supporting their daughter Ellie Giana.
Gasol’s speech was full of thanks. To Pepiño Casal, for transforming him physically; to his first coach, “Miquel (Vallhonesta), for teaching me the triple threat”; Juan José Campos “for putting me on the ground; I did 25 reversals and I was a disaster on the Laietà court, but I learned what it meant to play in that position ”. Pau, to whom they listened carefully friends like Jorge Garbajosa, Felipe Reyes or Rudy Fernández, followed by Joan Montes (“he taught me the importance of defense, like Quim Costa, and asked me to think that I was defending the one who was then my reference, Kukoc”); yhspoke of the importance of Aíto, Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich, like those who had opened his mind, introducing him to reading, to see life from different points of view.
With Navarro, his companion in battles, he was moved: “I want to mention Juan Carlos. Apart from the great player you have been, you taught me the meaning of friendship. When I was 16 years old, my life was home, family, studies and basketball. You opened my life to me. Despite the fact that he sometimes interfered in your life (he joked with Navarro and his wife, Vanessa), I’m happy ”. “And it hasn’t been too bad for you,” he smiled.
Kobe, Marc and the National Team
But of course, Pau was melting away. His emotional memory of Kobe, his sincere words to his parents and his brother Marc. His gratitude to his years in the National Team. “They have come to give us a Laureus because we have been a family. We have had a very special team, made up of people who were not shy or complex and who had a good time, “he said, looking at the president of the FEB, Jorge Garbajosa. Gasol did not forget Raül López and Joaquín Juan, who have played a fundamental role in the last two years so that Pau could return to basketball.
“So, what can we do now?“Pau asked rhetorically to start the last part of his speech. “I have prepared for the future”. He didn’t have to say it. He himself revealed how it looks. “The photo behind me says what I think. The versatility, the flexibility ”. Pau left nothing behind: “I was talking to Saras (Jasikevicius) a few days ago about what to do after that void, that abyss that you have when you leave the elite. I have been preparing for it for years, but I have invested in a professional team that allows me to start projects, settle them. That is why I have to thank the people who work at the Gasol Foundation. The price of greatness is responsibility. I read that sentence because there are many people who tell me: how great you are, how great you are. I have tried to be my best, but being great requires taking responsibility. Whether as a member of the IOC, or as an advisor or ambassador for Barça, a position that is important to me ”.
Pau will also raise his hand for social causes: “I’ve been preparing for that moment for years. Philanthropy is something very important to me. Since 2003, I have been an ambassador for UNICEF and working with the Foundation to combat childhood obesity is very important. I have also invested and advised various companies such as BetterUp, Overtime …, and some more that I will be announcing. I will invest in health and sports ”. A philanthropist, yes, but a winner.
In farewell to basketball, and to the chords of Jarabe de Palo’s Mysteriously Today, Pau said goodbye thinking of those who gave their youth to so many nights in the NBA: “I’m sorry I stole so much sleep.”