But Gasol isn’t giving up – especially so he can close his career representing Spain in the Tokyo Olympics, which have been postponed to 2021.
Gasol, via Olympic Channel:
I was hoping, before everything changed and everything got postponed or cancelled, that I was going to have enough time to heal my injury, to get in the appropriate shape after more than year, if not, of being able to compete and play and still, at 40 years old, play my fifth Olympics this summer in Tokyo.
Now, for one side, I have more time to recover, but I will have to play competitively in order to get to the summer of 2021 at a high level and be able to compete and help my country. Which is, it’s not a bad thing. But the truth of it is that in summer 2021, I’ll be 41, which is a challenge.
And it’s something that might excite me, being a very challenge-driven person and very ambitious always. And it is very much still a desire to be able to play my fifth Olympics and potentially that being my very last tournament.
I don’t know if there is such a thing, you know, as a perfect ending. Obviously winning an Olympic medal, a gold medal, would be, I think, the best possible way that you could think of. I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I didn’t have a chance to play again, I’ve had an incredible career. So, I’ll be happy regardless.
Just four men’s basketball players have played in five Olympics, per Basketball-Reference:
- Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain: 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
- Andrew Gaze (Australia: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)
- Oscar Schmidt (Brazil: 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996)
- Teo Cruz (Puerto Rico: 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976)
It’s obviously incredibly challenging to play at an Olympic level over a 20-year span. And Gasol is already slipping significantly physically.
The Spanish national team will probably give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, Gasol helped the Spaniards win silver medals in 2008 and 2012 and a bronze medal in 2016. But Spain also has a deep talent pool. Gasol will have to show at least a reasonable level of performance to make the Tokyo roster.
Odds are against him. That’s just how it works at his age. But it sounds as if he’s taking a healthy attitude – enjoying the process of trying to get there and being content if he falls short. It’s hard not to root for him.