Gasol was widely known for his finesse around the basket and his shot-blocking, but he possessed countless other leadership skills we'd be wise to emulate.
The final buzzer sounded, and Pau Gasol and Draymond Green shared a lengthy embrace.
Then, Gasol walked off the court with his Spanish teammates for the very last time — capping a remarkable international basketball career that spanned five Olympics.
While it’s easy to focus on Gasol’s medals and NBA championships, it’s really his grit, his commitment to personal growth, and his willingness to get outside of his comfort zone that we can all learn from as leaders.
Gasol was labeled “soft” at points of his career, played on several losing teams, and was crushed after falling to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals.
But he never allowed failure to be final. He dedicated himself to improving his physical strength and fine-tuning his game after that season, and the Lakers won the next two NBA championships.
“I’ve learned the most and grown the most when I’ve lost, when I hit the wall and wasn’t good enough,” Gasol told author Ryan Holiday last year. “You learn more from defeat than you learn from wins and victory. Hardship forces you to figure it out.”
Gasol was widely known for his finesse around the basket and his shot-blocking, but he possesses another off-the-court skill that is all too uncommon: A refusal to get bored.
He has always challenged himself to grow and has never gotten tired of the mundane.
“I don’t like when people say, ‘Oh, I’m bored’ or ‘This is hard,’” he said. “There are so many things you can do. There’s so much knowledge and so many activities that you can proactively pursue to make your days better and useful.”
Gasol also never allowed himself to be labeled as simply a basketball player. He’s a voracious reader, studies philosophy and loves opera.
He was named a UNICEF ambassador in 2003, has fought passionately against malnutrition, and frequently visited the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital during his Laker days.
He hasn’t lost sight of the fact that with stardom comes responsibility.
“Just because you have better opportunities or you’re in a more privileged position doesn’t mean you have to overlook or say, ‘Screw you, I’m good,’” he told Holiday. “Just because you have a better chance or better privilege doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advocate for fairness and equal opportunity.”
Gasol’s clutch shots and dunks will be celebrated for decades, but his ability to overcome hardship, his refusal to get bored and his recognition of his larger responsibilities are most relevant to us as leaders.
They’re skills Gasol has worked daily to improve — and they translate far beyond any basketball court.