Today is Day 16 of the Omer. Gevurah sheb’tif’eret. Power that flows from balance.
For the second day in a row, during this week of tif’eret, we are honoring a European big man with an all-around game. There are a few players with more balanced games or more balanced interests than Pau Gasol. Lee Jenkins does an excellent job capturing Pau’s love of art, music, medicine, and culture in his article, “The Power of Pau.”
Ultimately, it is Pau’s power that earns him the nod on Day 16, the day of gevurah (power, might, strength). I don’t think I fully respected the lanky 7 footer’s strength during his career.. Buried in the anonymity of Memphis for 7 years and labelled as a soft European big man, I was surprised to see that Gasol averaged 9.2 rebounds over 18 seasons. For most of those, he was a double-double machine, averaging roughly 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks/game until his final years.
When Gasol was traded to the LA Lakers, his game took off and his profile grew. He added muscle and helped the Lakers to two straight NBA Championships. But I’ll always love the Spanish national team version of Gasol the most. Playing for national pride and within a system that highlighted his elite scoring and passing, Gasol shined. In 2008 and 2012, he led Spain to Olymopic Silver medals and in 2016, a bronze, averaging 20 points/game over 4 Olympics. Not everyone will be able to manifest the raw power of a Shaquille O’neal or Charles Barkeley, but Gasol maximized his power, while maintaining a balance approach to life and the game of basketball.