MIES, Switzerland - International basketball icon Pau Gasol has been named a FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 global ambassador.
With FIBA's flagship event getting underway in 200 days in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, Gasol will be on hand at a championship he knows very well.
Gasol made a huge splash at his first World Cup in 2002 in Indianapolis, leading Spain to fifth place. He ended up as the tournament's sixth leading scorer, averaging more than 19 points per game.
Gasol's biggest moment with Spain came when he spearheaded his country's run to glory at the 2006 World Cup in Japan. He was so prolific, averaging 21.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting a blistering 63.1 percent from the field, that he was named MVP of the event despite having to miss the Final because of injury.
In his last World Cup appearance on home soil in 2014, Gasol led Spain to six straight wins before the hosts were upset by France in the quarterfinals. He had been so good in the tournament that Gasol again made the All-Star Five.
In all, Gasol played at three World Cups, five Olympics and seven FIBA EuroBaskets.
He helped Spain win silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and then bronze at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
In the history of the EuroBasket, Gasol is one of the most decorated players. At the EuroBaskets in 2009 and 2015, he was the MVP as Spain captured titles. In 2011, he was in the All-Star Five as his national team also reached the top of the podium.
Gasol was in the All-Star Five when Spain finished runners-up at EuroBaskets 2003 and 2007 and when Spain was third in 2001 and 2017.
Even as a member of Spain's youth teams, Gasol competed and had success. He helped his country beat the USA in the Final of the 1999 World Championship for Junior Men.
Looking ahead to the World Cup, Gasol, who has joined Argentina superstar Luis Scola as a World Cup Global Ambassador, knows a lot has to go right for the eventual winners.
"The World Cup is the toughest trophy in basketball to win", Gasol said. "A winning team needs character and chemistry and teammates who will pick you up when you're down".
"This is a great honor for me to be a part of such a great team of basketball legends and to join Luis Scola, a true legend and one of my toughest rivals, in this role as Global Ambassador for the 2023 World Cup".
Gasol was a wonderful representative for the game during his playing days and has been since his retirement after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Only several months ago, he served as FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 Ambassador and was courtside in Sydney, supporting and promoting women's basketball. He is also a member of the International Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission. Gasol is an advisor, investor and activist in projects related to sports and wellbeing. (PNA)