We kick off the second season of UNIQ with a conversation between two titans of Spanish basketball. This time, José Manuel Calderón talks to his teammate and friend, a man with whom he has shared adventures for more than 20 years — Pau Gasol.
The six-time NBA All-Star talks to José Manuel Calderón about values and emotions, life decisions and personal growth.
We all know Pau Gasol for his unforgettable plays during his time with the NBA, the Spanish National Team and the Spanish basketball league ACB. Gasol is considered by many to be the best Spanish player of all time and one of the most revolutionary FIBA players in history.
But he’s a lot more than a world-class athlete. Gasol stands out for his humanity and altruism, which have led him to take on multiple projects that aim to increase the welfare of others.
Steps towards a better world
In 2013, Gasol founded the Gasol Foundation and launched himself into the market by attacking the problem of childhood obesity, which affects millions of children around the world.
Gasol candidly admits that his fame and ego have not been a barrier to his desire to help his society, family and teammates. In fact, in this conversation, he revealed his previously unknown passion: medicine, and more specifically pediatrics.
"Beyond the public person, there is a person, a family," the basketball player tells us.
The impact of technology on sport
Throughout the conversation with his teammate and friend, Calderón brings up a recurring theme in UNIQ — technology and its impact. Gasol discusses how technology has been a key factor for athletes, starting with a concept that is so close to home but so complex at the same time: body awareness. Today's technological tools make it possible to analyze a team’s moves and plays like never before. They offer athletes a new concept of the world, enhance a team’s effectiveness and boost one’s connection with themselves and others.
Today Pau is a major investor and activist in health-focused technology companies.
Technology has helped Gasol, who has also coached, guide his team from a place of heightened awareness and keen observation. But he’s always derived his strength as a leader on the court from the connection he creates with his teammates, identifying the right times to reward teammates or ask for more, as well as the ability to transmit his enthusiasm and desire to take on the world to other players. "You can have a lot of talent on the court. But in the end, what matters is communication."
A style of leadership that is rigorous but empathetic, committed and disciplined, while always based on mutual respect and support, is the same leadership that Gasol uses to run his foundation and other aspects of his life.
A new beginning
The basketball star retired from playing just over two months ago. Early on, Gasol was a highly independent person, whose decisions tended to affect only himself. Now, he has a family and has become a father, and that’s all changed. "Every change is an opportunity for growth and learning", the athlete stresses. This new stage in life has led him to look at the world with different eyes. "Career is no longer a priority, other things are more important now,” he said.
The end of his playing career does not mean he’s done with basketball altogether. Over his career, Gasol participated in five Olympic Games and has recently been elected to be a new member of the IOC Athletes' Commission and Global Champion. This responsibility is an even greater source of excitement for the former player. And through his coaching, Gasol passes his values to other athletes, inspiring them to do their best through his incredible experience and skills.
Gasol actively takes part in many initiatives. He explains that one of the great challenges once you finish a phase of life as intense as his basketball career and "disconnect that chip," is the challenge of controlling that tendency to fill the huge void that it leaves in your life. And this can be done by getting involved in initiatives and projects. Living this situation requires a lot of organization and, above all, mental toughness and strength.
After a long career as an athlete, Gasol is beginning a new chapter in life with an admirable sense of responsibility. He remains faithful to his values and principles and feels enormously grateful for the privileges that life has granted him. Now, he fights day after day to give back this generosity to those around him.