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Pau Gasol: The fact the LA Lakers are retiring my jersey is overwhelming

One year ago this Wednesday, Pau Gasol officially put an end to his career as a professional basketball player. He may have never dreamed for it to be so successful, as what happened on the court exceeded all his expectations.

The next chapter is keeping him in the limelight due to his activities with his charitable foundation, his investments and his work with the IOC Athletes' Commission.

In an interview with MARCA, Gasol discussed the Los Angeles Lakers' plan to retire his No.16 jersey, his role in the ICO and Spain's success in the 2022 EuroBasket.

How do you assess the last 365 days?

"A year of transition, a year of reflection, of maturing. A year of assuming more responsibility and other roles with the Foundation, with the IOC, with the world of sport and the world of investment. A year where I have been able to spend more time with my family, without so much travel, more settled at home. An important change of pace."

Have you missed the game a lot?

"To a certain extent yes, but not as much as I expected. That year and a half of injury, surgeries, recoveries, rehabilitation, and uncertainty because I didn't really know if I was going to play again at the age of 40, helped me to prepare myself for the farewell. Being able to end up playing for Barcelona and the national team gave me a sense of peace and the right end that makes you understand that, even though you miss basketball, something that has contributed so much to your life, you understand that nothing is infinite, things come to an end. I feel grateful to have played for so long."

When you see successes like that of the national team in the EuroBasket, do you get nostalgic?

"I feel proud because I feel part of those moments even living in the distance, watching it on TV, even if you do not compete with them. I feel happy. The team, the staff, the federation. You feel that you have left a grain of sand in the big castle that we built together. Without being present, I have very nice feelings because I enjoy and feel proud of something in which I have participated and that somehow I have been able to contribute to build and to influence the next generations."

Which new activity do you feel most fulfilled by?

"Fatherhood is what fulfils me the most on a human and personal level. It can't be compared with the rest. I am a person with restlessness, with the desire to do things, with ambition, with the desire to take advantage of opportunities and to set myself challenges. I want to make the most of my time in this world. I diversify a lot. I try to find ways to have an impact with issues that I believe in or have experience with, like sports, health, wellness. That aligned both on the social side, as an investor or as an advisor to organizations or companies."

After more than a year in the Athletes' Commission, what is your impression? Is there something for you in the IOC?

"The position I assumed in the Athletes' Commission is for a period of two Olympic cycles, seven years in my case because of COVID-19. I am joining because it is a very large organization, with many aspects, with a lot of networks. It has a lot of reach and presence. Not everything is reduced to the Games every two years. There is much more. The Olympic movement is making efforts so that the values of Olympic sport are present in society 365 days a year. We have to continue to promote sport in this fast-changing world, which is advancing rapidly in areas such as technology, which tends to make our lives easier, but at the same time makes our lives more passive, more sedentary, less thoughtful, because the machine is already thinking for you. These are things that we have to be very aware of. I am already in the Ethics Commission and in the Coordination Commission of the Olympic Games of Los Angeles 28. I spent four days meeting after meeting, talking to the organizing committee. I like having that direct influence on what the LA Games will be, especially giving athletes a voice. I want to empower the athletes, to praise them, to give them more tools to take advantage of each of their stages, the competitive and the post, which is very important as well. This excites me."

How did you take the news that the LA Lakers are playing to retire your jersey?

"I take it with disbelief. It's something that overwhelms me. It's hard for me to imagine. I was at the stadium the other day with the Athletes' Commission for the Games. I hadn't been there since the Kobe [Bryant] memorial. I looked up and I had goosebumps. It's a moment that's hard for me to take in. I'm going to have a hard time. I'm going to have to make an effort to contain myself."

It seems like the perfect end to a career.

"It's a great recognition of a stage of my career. Joining such a select group of players like [Wilt] Chamberlain, Magic [Johnson], [Karim-Abdul] Jabbar, Kobe, Jerry West... It's hard to take in."

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