While soccer might be known as the beautiful game, basketball can be aesthetically playing as well. At it’s best, the NBA is free-flowing and dynamic, with 10 freakishly athletic players racing from one end of the floor to the other. Veteran NBA big man Pau Gasol, however, doesn’t see that beauty anymore.
While Gasol is still on the Portland Trailblazers, he’s yet to play this season. He might be short on fitness, but the Spanish star isn’t short on opinions about the game he loves.
Pau Gasol’s professional career
Pau Gasol was born in Barcelona, Spain, with basketball in his blood. Both of his parents played the game and stood over six feet tall; before long, Pau was following in their footsteps. He joined Cornellia, before moving on to FC Barcelona’s basketball team and quickly made a name for himself. Gasol would win the Spanish League twice and lift the Spanish National Cup once before moving to North America.
The Atlanta Hawks made Gasol the third overall pick of the 2001 NBA draft but promptly traded him to Memphis. The Spaniard didn’t waste any time adjusting to his new home, posting 17.6 points, and pulling down 8.9 rebounds on his way to the Rookie of the Year Award.
Even though injuries would limit his effectiveness in later years, Gasol spent six full seasons with Memphis before the Grizzlies traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. He won two titles in Hollywood before, once again, injuries started to limit his effectiveness.
After leaving the Lakers, Gasol spent some time with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs. He was on the Bucks roster for the tail end of the 2019 season, but only played three games; he’s currently on the Trailblazers roster but has yet to practice.
Gasol calls out the modern game
While Gasol is technically still an NBA player, he isn’t too happy about the state of the modern game. In fact, he feels like basketball has become uglier over the years.
“It has changed a lot,” Gasol explained in an interview with Marca. For me, the big change is the game itself. There are very fast shots, very short possessions, few passes in each attack. There are many hasty shots. When I was younger, some of the shots that are attempted today would have seen the coach send you to the bench as a punishment. Now it is encouraged to shoot in the first eight seconds of possession.”
“It has lost the beauty of the game, the purity it had, the fact of moving the ball from one side to the other, the ball inside-outside, which was to play with two in the post,” he continued. “Now there are times when there are teams that play with five small guys. [Mario] Hezonja played the other day as center with us.”
The changing style of pro sports
While Gasol was speaking about the modern NBA, his complaint resonates across the sporting landscape. Many baseball fans complain that base hits are a thing of the past; it’s simply more efficient to swing for a home run, even at the risk of striking out. Similarly, more football teams are prioritizing the passing game over rushing the ball, while hockey enforcers are slowly becoming obsolete.
While it would be harsh to say Gasol is an old man in a young man’s world, his perspective is a product of his time. The Spaniard, for all of his skill and finesse, was a big man who preferred to play on the block; that player really doesn’t exist in the modern NBA. If he had grown up in a different era, his perspective would have probably different.
At the end of the day, however, sports are the same as everything else. Beauty is simply in the eye of the beholder. Pau Gasol’s ugly might be the most beautiful thing Steph Curry or James Harden has ever seen.