Pau Gasol takes incredible pride in representing Spain on the international stage — he still wants to play for them in the World Cup next summer, when he will be 39. He has a FIBA World Cup title and three EuroBasket titles for Spain, plus two Olympics silver medals. Both silvers because of losses to the USA in the Gold Medal game.
Kobe Bryant beat Gasol for one of those gold medals in 2008 in Beijing. Then Kobe tormented him with it, and used it as that particular Kobe style of motivation, via 24/7 Sports.
“One of my favorite ones, Pau hates it every time I tell this story,” Bryant recalls. “He hates it. We lost to the Celtics in ’08 and it was a physical series. I mean they beat the crap out of us. We go into the Olympic year, that year, we wind up playing Spain for the gold-medal match and we beat them. So now we come back to start training camp and Pau shows up first day of training camp, I have my gold medal hanging in his locker.
“The one thing he truly, truly love is his country. That is like everything to him. So it just drove him crazy. He said ‘You’re an ass—!’ I said, ‘Listen Pau, you lost to the Celtics, you lost to us in the gold-medal match, let’s not make this three in a row this year. Let’s win this thing.’ That was it for him.
“Pau was a phenomenon to begin with. For him, it was just stepping up a level of physicality, that we needed him to get to, which he did and we went on to win back-to-back championships.”
Kobe has told this story before. Gasol isn’t exactly motivated by the same strategies as Kobe, either — no doubt he got the message, but Kobe didn’t need to do it that way to motivate Gasol. That’s just Kobe. And he can be a bit of an ass—-.
But the Lakers went on to win the next two titles, beating the Celtics in 2010, so the victors get to write the history.