The astonishing return path of Pau Gasol towards a retreat at the height of his legend

An unprecedented 40-year physical recovery, an emotional return to Bara and the dream come true of its fifth Games. The film climax of his career was only missing the Euroleague and another Olympic medal

Pau Gasol, during the act in which he announced his retirement.Enric FontcubertaEFE


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Just a few minutes ago, he had spoken what he expected. I was leaving it, how could it be otherwise. At 41, a career that exceeded even the most optimistic expectations and a last reunion with basketball in 2021 as the culmination, as the last battle won. So, in the front row of the Liceu de Barcelona, Elisabet Gianna Gasol I started crying. Pau took her up to the rostrum, played with her and Ellie he calmed down. The calm crying of his daughter as a paradigm of the last episode in which the best Spanish player of all time defied destiny and defeated him. I was able to say goodbye to this beloved sport on the courts and not let my injury remove me. I was able to fulfill the dream that my daughter would see me play, he confessed in a recent interview in this newspaper.

A year ago at this time no one could predict what would become of Pau Gasol. Withdrawal seemed like the hopeless option. Since March 10, 2019, his last night in the NBA, with the Bucks, with the 17th Indian on his back, that stress fracture in his left foot had put him in check. And the pandemic hadn’t helped. There was a moment in his tortuous recovery when the doctors showed him the crossroads, like a reality check. You may not run or jump again in your life if you continue to do so. The risk was immense and in his documentary The important thing is the trip, from Amazon, the dilemmas of those moments are palpable. It was a battle between my competitive self, the professional gamer who still had a lot to give, and my future self. The athlete won, in an unprecedented recovery. On April 9, against Bayern Munich, 20 years later, he dressed again as a Barça player.

Ground zero for his set-up was established at Woodside Priory School, a college preparatory school in Portola Valley, California. Alone, with the priceless tips and guidelines of Ral Lpez; then increasing the load, the rivals, two against two, three against three and, finally, simulations of matches against players who were not so easy to recruit. A mental and physical challenge in the middle of a pandemic.

Afterwards, conversations with his brotherJuan Carlos Navarro, the possibility of trying in the Girona of Marc Gasol, at LEB, the signing at last, the trip to Barcelona and the first training sessions with the subsidiary at the Ciutat Esportiva …

Return to the Bara, join the ambitious project of which he was his partner years ago Conversation Jasikevicius, a moving train, was not only a way station to its trumpeted Olympic peak. In addition to the obvious romantic side of the mission – he played for the minimum wage, about 30,000 euros – there was the competitive side, which was always the reason for being in Pau’s career. He ended up playing 23 games (seven in Europe and 16 in the Endesa League), from less to more until he performed even higher than expected, despite his controlled minutes: always below 20. Brill in the Endesa League playoffs against Joventut and Tenerife, an average rating of 18.5 in just 15 minutes. In seven of his last nine games he surpassed ten points and finally, he raised the ACB champion trophy in a Palau with public -detail of Oriola and Mirotic-, after finishing a depleted Real Madrid, again with his daughter in his arms.

The cross was the Euroleague final lost in Cologne to Anadolu Efes, after a terrific personal semi-final against Armani Milan. After all, one of the few titles that were going to surrender to him in his entire career.

Adis in Saitama

His journey in Tokyo was also bittersweet, although sports were not going to tarnish the legend, his fifth Games (and his persecuted election to the IOC Athletes Commission). He did not finish in a medal, not even Pau could have any prominence on the field, condemning almost the entire key duel against the USA Team in the quarterfinals to the bench. But at the Saitama Super Arena -ah it had to be, 15 years after the world gold medal-, when he and Marc said that we got off this beautiful attraction, an exciting circle was closing. That of the Gasols with the Spanish team that they made two-time world champion, three times European champion and two Olympic runners-up, among many other medals and milestones.

If it had been designed by the best screenwriter in Hollywood, only a podium in Tokyo and the conquest of the Euroleague would have been more peaks. The twilight of Pau Gasol turned out like everything before, from a movie. He managed to return from some physical abyss that nobody expected, a last dance at 41 years old to further enlarge his legend. Now, after the goodbye that he always wanted, his other life begins, the one that he postponed for his own love, that of his philanthropic work.

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