Pau Gasol will turn 40 in three months. It’s unlikely that the NBA will be back on track by then—if so, that’s the very earliest possibility as the coronavirus continues to spread—so if Gasol does suit up in the league again, it’s almost certainly going to be as the 28th player in league history to appear in a game after his 40th birthday.
But that’s if Gasol gets back on the floor again at all, which might prove to be a tall order. The 19-year veteran, who played seven seasons in Memphis before joining the Lakers for seven seasons and helping L.A. to two NBA championships (in 2008 and 2010), has struggled to come back from a foot injury. He’d signed with Portland before the season but was released in November.
With that in mind, Gasol said that he has considered finishing his career at FC Barcelona in Spain, where he made his debut as a pro in 1998.
Asked by ESPN’s Zach Lowe about his interest in wrapping up in Spain, Gasol said, “Interest yes, but, and I said it since I kind of left Spain, FC Barcelona to come to the NBA. But I always kind of said, you know, the longer I play in the NBA, which I love, it’s going to be harder for me to go back and play one year in Spain.”
Gasol Wrote About Coronavirus in Spain
Gasol, who grew up in a family of doctors and intended on going to medical school before he got sidetracked with basketball stardom, wrote an essay last week for The The Players’ Tribune in which he discussed the events around the world since mid-March, writing, “It feels like we’ve lived a year in the last three weeks.”
He also wrote about his feelings on Spain, his home country, being so hard-hit by the coronavirus. Spain had the second-most deaths from COVID-19 in the world. Gasol wrote:
“A recent story from Spain really shook me. In one of the busiest parts of Madrid, there’s a shopping center called Palacio de Hielo (Ice Palace). It’s a big mall with shops and restaurants, and the main attraction is an Olympic-sized ice skating rink. Today, though, the mall is empty, as Spaniards are under a country-wide order to remain in their homes. The skating rink, meanwhile, has been converted into a makeshift morgue. Think about that: An ice-skating rink … is now a morgue. In the last few days, Madrid announced it was converting a second building into a makeshift morgue. That’s how much life has changed in Spain in such a short time.”
Gasol did try to see some positive in the situation. Maybe, after the coronavirus crisis wanes, more people will start to see themselves as interconnected with their neighbors and fellow humans.
“As much of the world remains isolated, we can’t forget our shared values. This is a rare chance to reexamine what we mean by We’re in this together,” Gasol wrote. “Take health care, for example. It shouldn’t take a highly contagious outbreak to show us how interconnected we are. But it’s so obvious now: When it comes to health care, we’re in this together in the most literal sense. Your health affects my health, and my health affects yours.”
Pau Gasol Could Play in the Olympics
On the court, even if the NBA is no longer in his future, Gasol says he remains open to playing in the Olympics for the Spanish national team. The Tokyo Games have been pushed back to 2021, which will give Gasol more time to get his foot healthy. It would the fifth Olympics in which Gasol appeared.
“I’m gonna try,” Gasol told Lowe. “But first of all, I have to focus on what I can control which is my rehab and kind of follow that process and get healthy. Get that foot strong and find out whether I can or I won’t. that will be the process. Right now, everything is up in the air.”
Gasol said that his brother, Marc Gasol, now a center with the Raptors, has also considered returning to Spain to finish out his career.
“Marc has said this, I think, recently,” Gasol said, “that he would love to play his last year in Girona that he played for before he came to the NBA and it means so much to him, just like Barcelona means to me, but, but we’ll see. Maybe works out maybe it’s in the books, maybe It’s not. Again, it has a certain appeal. But, but I still like to play in the best league with the best players.”