Spain Ousted: Is this Pau Gasol’s Final FIBA World Cup?

Pau Gasol last FIBA World Cup

With the hosts bowing out of the FIBA World Cup on Wednesday evening against France, did Pau Gasol’s chance of lifting the trophy for a second time also vanish from sight? At the grand old age of 34, Gasol is certainly within the twilight years of his career, and it will be a big ask of his body if he is to compete again in four years’ time.

But based on the impressive performances at this year’s competition, it seems this older Gasol has become a wiser, more accomplished player, who could well carry on past his physical prime. If we look at the tournament stats, at the time of writing, Gasol leads the way in total points scored (140) and is second in field goal shooting accuracy (63.5%). For the Spanish national side he undoubtedly remains their leader, a towering figure who directs the side’s play right from the off.

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Even in defeat and rejection, Gasol once again proved to be Spain’s most effective player, scoring most points (17) with the highest shooting percentage (58.3%) of any player on court. Arguably, it has been Spain’s reliance on their main man to pull them through these tough matches which proved to be a burden too big, even for the mighty Gasol.

“It is a painful defeat. We had big hopes and up until now had been playing very well’’ the power forward said after the game. Inevitably, questions are now being asked as to whether he will be able to continue competing for the national side, let alone in another World Cup.

For the time being, it appears Gasol remains open-minded about his career prospects, “I would like to play until I am 50 but I doubt I will. It is an honour to play for my country but you never know”.

The retirement age for a frontcourt player is around 38 years old but to compete for the rebounds and score inside, the bigger guys usually need more stamina than anyone else on court. This stamina inevitably wains in later years and the fierce physical confrontation in the paint also makes them more prone to injury.

As an adept power forward that can shoot and pass, Pau Gasol is capable of avoiding a lot of the physical contact on the inside by scoring and moving the ball outside. If he can manage to steer clear injury, there’s nothing to say he can’t have a relatively longer career.

We only have to look to Arvydas Sabonis, one of the greatest big men in Europe, who still managed to compete at the top until he was 41.

While Pau is similar in stature, it’s hard to say whether he will compete in 2018, when he will be 38. Fitness and desire must both stay strong for him to do so, and while he may not be able to compete in all the matches he may still be useful as a side player due to his experience. As the golden age of Spain gradually fades away, the same can be said of the other Spanish stars Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Jose Calderon.

Gasol’s future may be cast into doubt, but for now let’s enjoy his past, and the magical moments he has provided for Spain at the World Cup this year. It might be the last time those two meet.

If you’d like to read more facts about Gasol, and the other teams that have participated this year, go to our FIBA World Cup forum or check out this handy Basketball World Cup Infographic.

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