BEIJING — After a huge clutch performance Friday, Marc Gasol has a chance to pull off the rare double of winning an NBA championship and a World Cup title in the same summer.
Gasol scored 33 points and made four crucial free throws in Spain’s 95-88 double overtime victory over Australia in the semifinals. After winning a ring with the Toronto Raptors in June, a victory Sunday over Argentina/France would get him a FIBA gold medal.
That last player to win both in the same summer was Lamar Odom when he won with the Los Angeles Lakers and was a part of Team USA’s victory in the World Championships in Turkey.
“I don’t want to lose a second to think what it would mean,” Gasol said. “You look at the big picture, I’m very fortunate I committed to the national team this summer.”
Gasol only took about a week off after the Raptors title before start preparations with Team Spain. While many of his peers in the NBA elected to skip the World Cup either for the U.S. or for their home countries, Gasol said he felt a commitment to set an example to younger Spanish players.
“It’s so worth it and not just because we’re playing in the title game,” Gasol said. “It’s the responsibility of passing along the commitment and the loyalty to the team. Those values that we were taught so many years, now it is our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation. That’s not talent, that’s just commitment.”
Gasol was a 21-year-old role player in 2006 when Spain won its last World title. Now he is a team leader who has carried the Spanish to the brink of redemption after they were upset and didn’t medal in the 2014 World Cup in their home country.
“When you come to national team for 8-10 weeks in the summer, it’s not very practical,” Gasol said. “You don’t get to work on your game, you don’t get to recover, you don’t get to work on your body like you would if you had 20 weeks off. You’re committing a lot of time to your teammates and it’s completely worth it.”
Several times during the intense victory over the Aussies, who the Spanish beat for the bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, Gasol had exchanges with Kobe Bryant, who was sitting courtside.
“I met Marc when Marc was really young,” Bryant said. “So see how far he’s come as a basketball player, as a man and now as an NBA champion, I’m very happy and proud.”