Marc Gasol’s ’33’ takes to the skies in Memphis | Basketball | Sports

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When Marc Gasol won the NBA title in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors, he asked that the motto of his time with the Memphis Grizzlies be engraved on his championship ring. “Grit and Grind”, something like leaving your skin behind. His former teammates felt the Spanish center’s triumph as their own. Gasol also considered it in some way a triumph for his soul team in the NBA. This Saturday, the Grizzlies pay him their greatest tribute: the retirement of the jersey with his number, 33. “I am happy and I am proud of what we achieved,” the player said this Friday in the city where he established himself as a local hero .

Only one jersey can be seen so far on top of the Grizzlies pavilion, in downtown Memphis (Tennessee). This is the number ’50’ of his longtime companion Zach Randolph, whose number was retired in December 2021. This Saturday, Marc Gasol’s number ’33’ will symbolically ascend to the skies of the FedEx Forum. With this, Marc and Pau also become the first two brothers to receive such an honor in the NBA, the most important basketball league in the world. In Pau’s case, the Lakers retired his ’16’ in March 2023.

Marc Gasol, 39, has arrived in Memphis a week early to return to live with his family in the city that welcomed him for the first time when he was 16, when his brother Pau signed for the Grizzlies and the whole family moved with him. he. In the end, after twists and turns of fate, in Memphis it was Marc who became a local hero. He played 11 seasons (2008-19) on the team and was key to the team’s qualification for seven consecutive years. playoffs.

These days he has visited the places and people of the past: “It’s great to be back and continue where we left off,” he explained this Friday in an appearance at the Fedex Forum in Memphis. “The emotions have been overwhelming. “The love we receive everywhere we go… It’s been emotionally intense for everyone in the family.” Coinciding with the retirement of his number, the club has produced a documentary, Marc Gasol: Memphis Made. Born in Barcelona, ​​but made in Memphis, it is the local thesis.

Marc Gasol, this Friday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee, during a press conference.

KAREN PULFER FOCHT (EFE)

The protagonist summarized their bond this Friday: “Memphis has become part of my family. My parents have lived here 18 or 19 years. For Pau it became part of his personality, obviously it became part of my personality. My kids grew up here for a few years, so it’s going to be a part of us for the rest of our lives. And now, obviously, we’re going to be a part of it (with the t-shirt) hanging from the rafters for the rest of our lives. So I don’t know how to express so many emotions in one word. I’m just proud of how everything happened and how perfect everything turned out despite having many imperfections along the way. “The city has always supported us and has always supported the city.”

This was corroborated by the Canarian Santi Aldama, 23 years old, who is playing his third season with the Grizzlies. “In the city and in the organization, the people who were lucky enough to meet him always remember him with great affection, which speaks not only of the great player he has been, but also of the person,” he said. “I am lucky to have seen them play and now take advantage of part of his legacy and his experiences and learn from them. It’s going to be a very special moment this Saturday night,” he added.

Marc landed in Memphis as a teenager who did not speak English, but who appreciated the welcoming smiles with which he was received. He began studying at the Lausanne institute. “He was the typical teenager, trying to fit in at a new school, but with the added burden of having to learn the language and adapt to a new country,” his English teacher, Brenda Robinette, says in the documentary. He spoke the language of basketball with his friends, he remembers. And then he let loose in English with rap. “It was the music of my teammates. That’s what I learned and that’s how I got to know Memphis,” he remembers. Project Pat’s Chickenhead was the most iconic rap.

Overweight student

While his brother became an NBA star, Marc Gasol began to stand out on the high school team: for his height, but also for his skill and vision of the game. However, he had gained a lot of weight and did not look like a future elite athlete. He didn’t consider American college basketball. “I gained a lot of weight in those two years and I was not comfortable. And it was not my path,” he says in the documentary. He preferred to return to Barcelona, ​​start playing with the EBA team and training with the first team, he gained muscle, lost weight (he had weighed more than 150 kilos), improved his game with the help of Svetislav Pesic, the coach of the Barça from then. There he faced Pau, he playing with Barça and his brother with the Grizzlies, and then he grew up in Girona. He was ready for the NBA.

Memphis general manager Chris Wallace had tried to draft Marc Gasol, but the Lakers beat him to the punch. Pau Gasol even offered to lower his salary to make room for his brother on the Grizzlies, according to what he says in the film, but the irony of fate meant that in the end there was an exchange operation in which the older brother ended up with the Lakers while The Grizzlies kept the rights to the minor.

The Grizzlies were newcomers to Memphis. Owner Michael Heisley had brought the club from Vancouver, but it took a while for the city to feel the team as its own. Pau Gasol was a luxury rookie, chosen at number three in the draft 2001, but that was not enough. Gray bears, typical of other latitudes, did not fully adapt to Tennessee. Under Pau, the Grizzlies had already qualified for the postseason in 2004, 2005 and 2006, but in each of those years they lost resoundingly in the first round 4-0.

The following seasons were being disastrous for Memphis and Chris Wallace, the club’s manager, asked to do something to shake up the situation. Pau was practically the team’s only asset and the club began to listen to exchange offers for him. In the end they reached an agreement with the Lakers that almost everyone thought was unbalanced in favor of the Angelenos. However, by letting Pau go, the Grizzlies freed up salary mass to sign Zach Randolph the following year and, above all, achieved the rights to Marc Gasol. With him, the Grizzlies won their first postseason playoff victory in 2011 and qualified for the Western Conference finals in 2013.

A special connection

The victory in the 2011 first-round tie against the San Antonio Spurs, the first seed in the Western Conference that season, ignited passion for the Grizzlies. With Marc Gasol, point guard Mike Conley, power forward Zach Randolph and guard Tony Allen, they became a rock team, they achieved that identity with the stands, that physical style of play in which they gave a pitched battle for every ball. Everything changed in Memphis since then. Marc lived through the entire process. First as a fan of a team that half of the time played in a half-empty venue. Then, as the protagonist of that special connection with the Memphis fans.

Randolph, Conley and Allen will accompany him this Saturday. “I think the last time we were all together was when we were playing on the team, so it’s going to be more special to have everyone at home and connect with everyone at the same time,” Gasol said this Friday.

In 2013, with the best defense, the Grizzlies reached the championship final, raising passions, although they were unceremoniously defeated by the Spurs. He grit and grind left a mark. “It was our only way to be really competitive with the other franchises. We couldn’t surpass them in talent, scoring or bench depth. It is not a translatable expression in Spanish, but it is a mentality of work, of great humility, of being constant every day, of not having breaks. We understood that we needed that, sometimes those games were not very pretty or very comfortable, but we felt competitive in those tight games where defense made the difference and we did quite well. Beyond the results or the playoffs, it fit a lot with the mentality and feeling of a city and that was reflected for many years in the people’s response,” he responded to EL PAÍS this Friday.

Marc becomes the second player in franchise history to receive this honor, joining Randolph. The Grizzlies chose February 1 for the announcement because it was just 16 years since they acquired the rights to sign Marc. In addition, it occurred just the day after Marc announced that he was leaving basketball—as a player. “The withdrawal of the shirt more than what was achieved speaks of how it was achieved,” he said this Friday, admitting that not even in his wildest dreams would he have imagined something like this when he started. “No one was able to visualize a race like that.”

Along with the team achievements with the Grizzlies, there are the individual ones. Marc Gasol is the franchise’s all-time leader in minutes played (25,917), starts (762), field goals made (4,341), free throws made (2,701), defensive rebounds (4,624), total rebounds (5,952) and plugs (1,135). Additionally, he is second in team history in games played (769), points (11,684), assists (2,639), offensive rebounds (1,318), double-doubles (194) and triple-doubles (5) and third in steals ( 708). In terms of postseason games, it is first in minutes played, free throws taken, defensive rebounds and blocks, and second in games played, games started, points, rebounds, assists, field goals taken, offensive rebounds and total rebounds. A track record without equal in the Memphis basketball sky.

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