A long-held dream of its fans became reality on Tuesday when FC Barcelona announced the return of big man Pau Gasol, one of the most accomplished players in European basketball history, until the end of the current season. Gasol (2.13 meters, 40 years old) last played for Barcelona in 2001, when he was a teammate of the man who will now be his head coach, Sarunas Jasikevicius. That season, they teamed up in the first edition of the modern EuroLeague, although Gasol played just six games due to injury. After that, Gasol was drafted by Memphis with the third overall pick in the NBA draft. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year the following season, launching an 18-year career in America highlighted by back-to-back NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010. Gasol is a six-time NBA All-Star and was chosen to the All-NBA Team on four occasions. In addition to Memphis and Los Angeles, he also suited up for Chicago, San Antonio and Milwaukee. Gasol played in a total of 1,226 games and averaged 17.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his career. His 20,894 career points are the second-most in NBA history among European players, behind only Dirk Nowitzki.
Gasol grew up in the Barcelona youth system and after he made his debut with the first team, exploded to become a dominant player in the Spanish League almost overnight. In 2001, Gasol led Barca to the Spanish Copa del Rey title and was named MVP of the tournament. He played in six EuroLeague games in 2000-01, during when he averaged 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds to help Barcelona win its regular-season group. An injury kept Gasol out in the eighthfinals and Barcelona was eliminated. He was named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team for that season.
Gasol was also a driving force in the Golden Generation of Spanish players that dominated international competitions in the first two decades of the century. He was the MVP of the 2006 Basketball World Cup in Japan, where Spain captured the crown for the first time. Under Gasol's leadership, Spain also won the EuroBasket three times (2009, 2011, 2015), capturing silver medals in 2003 and 2007 and bronzes in 2001 and 2017, as well. Gasol and the Spanish national team also won Olympic silver medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, plus a bronze in Rio 2016.