NBA veteran Pau Gasol all-too-familiar with coronavirus, and yet is hopeful

NBA veteran Pau Gasol all-too-familiar with coronavirus, and yet is hopeful

Pau Gasol knows the coronavirus situation in the United States. He also knows well the toll it has taken in his native Spain where his mom is a doctor and dad is a nurse.

He recites the numbers: 3,000 positive cases per 1 million people in Spain, compared to 1,200 positive cases per 1 million in the U.S. In addition, there have been more COVID-19-related deaths in Spain (15,238) than in the U.S. (14,830) despite fewer confirmed cases.

“The healthcare system has been stressed a lot,” Gasol said of Spain, though the same can be said for portions of America. “Healthcare workers and first responders have been hit. More than 14% of COVID patients in Spain were in the healthcare sector. There’s a lack personal protection equipment. Lack of resources. Lack of ventilators and ICU beds. It exposed our weakness globally from the standpoint of we’re not prepared to deal with a pandemic like this.

Pau Gasol has played 18 seasons in the NBA.

“It’s been hard. A lot of uncertainty. A lot of fear as well because of the unknown.”

And yet Gasol, a 18-year NBA veteran, two-time NBA champion and six-time All-Star, searches for hope and meaning during these times.

He said he is inspired by people who emerged from horrible situations. Books written by Holocaust survivors have lifted him. He said just finished reading Edith Evan Eger’s "The Choice" and Viktor Frankl’s "Man’s Search for Meaning," which was recommended by Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

"Even though it may come at a high price, how do you respond to those adverse times that define you?” Gasol said. “You can respond with anger, bitterness, frustration, resentful or you can respond positively with a sense of being grateful and with a perspective of how can I be better prepared next time and how can I grow and be a stronger human being, family, community, country and world? How can this unite us and bring us closer instead of dividing us more?

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"I hope this is an opportunity for us to figure things out together instead of pointing fingers and the tension building and leading to bigger problems.”

Gasol reads and learns, and right now, he’s reading a Phil Jackson recommendation: "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."

There’s no doubt that Gasol's parents influenced his compassion and understanding. Had he not been a gifted basketball player, Gasol would probably be a doctor in Spain today.

Gasol, who calls himself a realistic optimist, encourages people to think and reflect during this time. He also wants to make sure people address their mental health so that the isolation doesn’t consume them.

He focuses on the greater good of humanity which also means being, "better prepared in the future, to minimize the damage and the number of people infected or deceased from a virus like this – and even prepare for a potentially deadlier virus," Gasol said.

The future Hall of Famer is recovering from foot surgery a year ago and has not played this season. Though in an essay on The Players Tribune, he said he planned to play for Spain in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It would have been his fifth Olympics. But that will have to wait, with the Games postponed to 2021.

Gasol understands these are uncommon, extraordinary times.

“Our generation has been really fortunate,” he said. “We really haven’t had to deal with a lot of adversity compared to other times in humanity. This one is probably is the biggest one or one of the biggest ones we’ve had to face and go through. Life, our journey as human beings, is a continuous test.”

He searches for the positives.

“Adversity in challenging times really presents a chance for you to grow as a human being, to put things in perspective, to really get stronger and not take things for granted,” Gasol said. “There’s a lot of things we start to appreciate more, beginning with our health-care system and our health-care workers and all those people who provide essential services and have become our heroes.

"And even the little things in our life, like going out for a walk, spending time with our families, going to the movies or a restaurant or going to a sporting event. You shouldn’t take that for granted."


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