Basketball-Gasol retires after 23-year career, two NBA titles, three Olympic medals

Soccer Football - Pau Gasol Press Conference - Theatre Liceu, Barcelona, Spain - October 5, 2021 Pau Gasol during the press conference REUTERS/Albert Gea

BARCELONA (Reuters) -Spanish basketball great Pau Gasol announced on Tuesday that he is retiring from the sport after a 23-year career.

"I'm here to tell you that I'm going to retire from professional basketball. It's a difficult decision after so many years but it's a decision I've taken carefully," Gasol, 41, told a news conference at Barcelona's Liceu theatre.

Gasol, who stands 7 feet 1 inch, made his professional debut in 1998 with Barca as a centre before being signed by NBA side Memphis Grizzlies in 2001.

He won NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010 while being chosen in the All-Star team on six occasions.

Gasol later played for Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs and had a brief stint with Milwaukee Bucks plus four months at Portland Trail Blazers, where injury prevented him playing.

He returned to Barcelona earlier this year, helping his boyhood club end a seven-year wait to win the Spanish championship in June.

Gasol was a talisman for Spain, helping them win the Olympic silver medal at the 2008 and 2012 Games plus bronze in 2016.

He recovered from almost two years out injured to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where Spain lost in the quarter-finals to eventual winners the USA in his final international.

Gasol began the news conference by detailing his battle to overcome a stress fracture he suffered in his left foot in 2019.

"Not many doctors thought I'd be able to recover but I'm a person who likes challenges and I wanted to fight to do the improbable," he said.

"I got to the point where I was relaxed about my career ending, I was at peace. But when things went well I took the decision to sign for Barcelona which wasn't in my plans. But I managed to win the league with the club where it all began and where I made my debut. It's been very special."

Gasol also paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, his old Lakers team mate who died in a helicopter accident in January 2020.

"I'd have liked him to have been here today but sometimes life is unfair," Gasol added.

"He taught me to a better competitor, a real winner, I considered him like an older brother."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)

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