Pau Gasol Sáez, better known as Pau Gasol, was born on July 6, 1980 in Barcelona, Spain. After playing for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies for seven seasons, he was traded to the league's top-tier Los Angeles Lakers. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2002, and is a two-time NBA champion with the Lakers. Gasol carried the Spanish flag for his country's contingent during the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London.
Born on July 6, 1980 in the Sant Boi de Llobregat area of Barcelona, Spain, Pau Gasol Sáez (later known as Pau Gasol) grew up in a sports-oriented family. He has two younger brothers, Adria and Marc. Marc played center with Gasol's former team, F.C. Barcelona, in Spain. Both Gasol's mother Marisa, a medical doctor, and father Agustí, a hospital administrator, played second-division 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.Gasol initially planned to become a doctor, and attended medical school at the University of Barcelona for one year, but an opportunity to play professional basketball changed his life.
Gasol was drafted third overall in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. However, before he could wear a Hawks uniform, draft rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. During his first season as a pro, Gasol became the first European player to be named "NBA Rookie of the Year," and was also named to the league's All-Rookie First Team. He finished that year first among all rookies in key categories such as scoring, rebounds and field goal percentage.
Gasol is 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 Grizzlie to make an appearance in the All-Star Game.
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.
Establishing a quick relationship with Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, Gasol helped the team finish the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, 57-25. His quickness and shooting ability helped the Lakers land a spot in the 2008 NBA Finals, which they lost in six games against the Boston Celtics.
Gasol speaks three languages—Catalan, Spanish and English—and has continued his international basketball profile. He played with the Spanish national team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, finishing sixth overall. 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.
Gasol's philanthropy often involves children's causes. While playing with Memphis, his "Pau's Amigos" was a six-year sponsor of Tickets for Kids. He also did public service announcements for Memphis City Schools Reads, UNICEF and Memphis City Schools Fight-Free Fifty, which encourages students to go 50 days without fighting in school. Serving as ambassador for Spain's UNICEF Committee, Gasol has traveled to Angola and South Africa, visiting children's hospitals and raising awareness for children with HIV and AIDS.
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