In anticipation of ex-teammate Kobe Bryant’s retirement, current Chicago Bulls star Pau Gasol was interviewed for GQ to express his feelings of his departure, among much more.
To start off the conversation with the two-time NBA champion, they began by speaking about his seamless relationship with Kobe, and what single vital attribute brought them closer.
He’s called you one of his favorite teammates. When you first got to the Lakers, did it take time for you two to build a chemistry?
There was a chemistry and understanding right away. When I first got there, he came to my hotel room, it was like 1 A.M. I just flew in from Los Angeles to Washington after my physical was completed. He said, “Hey, welcome. Now let’s win a championship.” It was that winning desire that he obviously had and that I had after coming from a difficult situation in Memphis where we weren’t so successful. I was thankful for that opportunity.
If you had to give a farewell gift to Kobe, what would you give him?
Man, that’s a tough one. The hardest people to give gifts to are the ones who have access to anything they want. So, it’s really hard to shop for a guy like that. Maybe a fun week in Barcelona, put together a trip for his family, go to a winery, have some wine tasting, go to a nice restaurant and hang out. Something laid back. I think at the end of the day, the most important thing is spending time with family and people that you care about and sharing nice moments together.
As they would go on to talk about TV, Netflix, and friendships, we would learn that one of the favorites for Gasol as a prime center for bonding is at the kitchen table, and he would then describe his ventures in the world of cuisine.
You’re a big food guy. Is there anything that you wouldn’t try?
I’m very adventurous as far as trying things. There are things like insects, worms, or brains that I wouldn’t particularly love to try. Would I try it? Maybe. It depends on the day. But I’m definitely not like, “I can’t wait to have some worms!”
What about Chicago-style deep dish pizza?
I’ve tried it. I’m not a fan of this deep dish pizza. To me, it’s just a cake of melted cheese. I like the thin-crusted pizzas better.
While a sting was felt through my heart with the latter statement, it made it all okay when he began to delve into the natural instinct he has to help people, such as founding a charity foundation with brother Marc Gasol, but what was a real surprise was to learn that he faced a fork in the road at an early age that could have swayed him into the medical field.
You established the Gasol Foundation with Marc, and you’ve talked about wanting to be involved with philanthropic efforts and initiatives when you retire. Where did this desire to give back and spend your free time enriching the lives of others come from?
I think it came from our family. Both of my parents worked in the medical field, so it was in us genetically, and we grew up around it as well. One of my desires as a kid was to become a doctor. I did go to medical school but I had to give it up after a year because basketball and med school don’t really go together [laughs]. That’s always been a passion since I was a teenager, so now I’ve found ways to have an impact through my philanthropic efforts. That’s my way to fulfill that desire and passion.
Was that a tough decision for you to choose basketball over becoming a doctor, a career that was probably at the time less risky, would have made you financially stable and fulfilled a passion?
It was because it was a gamble. Even though I believed I had a good chance to be a pretty good basketball player, my parents were very reluctant for me to give up my medical career. I always told them if basketball didn’t work out after a year or two I would go back to med school and pick up my studies. So that’s how I convinced them.
A wonderful reflexion and analysis of Pau’s unique, worldly mind, the GQ piece touches more on his opinions on the NBA and accomplishments he still looks forward to.