Pau Gasol’s legacy in the NBA lives on in the European players who came after him

The moment David Stern called out the name of Pau Gasol, on Wednesday June 27, 2001, there was a total of 44 international players in the NBA. Of those 44 professionals, only 8 exceeded 2,000 minutes in the 2000-2001 season. When the Catalan interior played its last minutes on a court in the American league, the number rose to 116 with almost 30 of them exceeding the aforementioned playing time barrier. Along the way, two decades during which everything changed.

The way in which the NBA ecosystem looked at young people from the other side of the Atlantic or from the hemisphere has nothing to do with today. Now we move in a globalized world in which information is transported at the speed of light and where there is no corner that escapes the control of the franchises in terms of scouting. However, the reality experienced by players like Tony Parker (Francia), Valdimir Radmanovic (Yugoslavia/Serbia), Raül Lopez (Spain), Mehmet Okur (Turkey), Antonis Fotsis (Greece) or Robertas Javtokas (Lithuania) bear virtually no resemblance to what he can experience Victor Wembanyama currently.

MORE | The 4 occasions in which Pau Gasol was The Sporting News: the memory before the retirement of his shirt

It seems like a century has passed since the days when international players had to put up with burdensome and unfair stereotypes about their game, based solely on where they came from. Now the situation is quite different. The of the main MVP candidates were not born in the United Stateslike four of the top five scorers, reason for which they are valued in their fair measure. No clichés, no preconceived ideas, no backpacks to carry. Importing only and exclusively the game.

And that is the fruit of the work that players like Pau Gasol they did.

Arrived as a scrawny four over 7 feet that “He likes to play facing the basket, he can handle the ball and he has skills“Gary Fitzsimmons, the Warriors’ GM in 2001, told ESPN that Gasol earned the league’s respect the only way he knew how: by playing at the highest level possible.

subscribe to NBA League Pass to see all the games: United States | Rest of the world

In a few months he was already facing a future MVP as was Kevin Garnett, winning the pulse to Richard Jefferson in the battle for him Rookie of the Year and following the steps of Dirk Nowitzki as the international of reference in the league. The history of Pau Gasol’s rise in the NBA constitutes a chapter of vital importance in the development of the competition itself, since through it one can verify not only the change in mentality but also in the game itself. Yes, the Catalan was not the most muscular player on the field, but his physical virtues went beyond strength, applying unprecedented speed in a four of his height.

In the years to come, many tall or versatile Europeans held important positions in the Draft, some more fortunate than others, but it was clear that the Grizzlies’ success had not gone unnoticed.

Pau’s sudden and sustained success in the NBA opened the doors to many who came (and will come) after him from the Old Continent.

And it is that in a competition where it is enough for someone to get something right for the rest of the franchises to run over each other to replicate it, the “fashion” to find the next Gasol or the next Nowitzki marked the first decade of the 21st century. Thus it was possible for names to reach the NBA that, otherwise, would have ended up joining the lists of the Euroleague or of the domestic competitions on duty.

“It was really important [para los europeos]”, says Goran Dragic to The Sporting News in Paris. “He was one of the best fours or false fives, he could play both positions. What he did for European basketball is incredible. What he achieved in the NBA with a tremendous career, the truth is that I am very happy. It was always hard to play against him”.

“Pau is a special talent. Very skilled, very competitive”adds Joakim Noah to TSN. “I was very happy to share the pitch with him, and he’s even a better person off the pitch. He always cared about the rest, supporting the young… I only have good words for him. It was a shame that we lost to him in the Eurobasket final. [2011]but he was a champion at the highest level.”

subscribe to NBA League Pass to see all the games: United States | Rest of the world

The fall of the wall that deprived the players who were part of the ecosystem FIBA going professional and maintaining their eligibility with their respective national teams served as the first experience of internationals in the US league. A primal stage in which the talent of some of the best of all time was wasted, but which paved the way for the next generation to go further.

“When you play in the NBA you tend to forget about the players who came before you. Names like Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc came to the league but it was very different because the Europeans had hardly any chances so they had to fight for get them”continues Goran Dragic for TSN. “All this helped Pau, it helped me and now we can see that the European players are dominating. Giannis, Luka, Jokic are the ones who are fighting for the MVP. It’s really amazing to see how European basketball impacts the NBA today.”.

Retired as one of the 40 leading scorers, one of the 30 with the most rebounds and 25 with the most blocks in NBA history, Pau Gasol’s legacy goes beyond the 18 seasons he completed in the best league in the world.

The road he traveled, not without problems, not without potholes, served so that there is now a direct and paved bridge from Europe. One in which only the game matters and not the origin.

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its organizations.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *