If winning his first NBA Championship weren’t enough for one summer, Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol added a EuroBasket title for his native Spain, earning MVP honors in the process.
Prior to EuroBasket – a Euro tournament that not only declares the continent’s best team but also qualifies its top performers for the World Championships – Gasol injured a finger, forcing him to sit out through much of August. Yet he quickly proved the finger not to be an issue by leading all players with 18.7 points and 2.2 blocks per game in the tournament, while finishing second with 8.2 rebounds and a 64.4 percent mark from the field.
Gasol’s performance in the final game, an 85-63 drubbing of Serbia, was consistent with his production throughout as he led Spain with 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. He even out-rebounded Serbia 8-7 by himself in the first half, helping the Spaniards win their first European championship after six second-place finishes.
“It was a great game, and obviously we won the final that we lost twice before this year, so I’m extremely happy and it’s an unforgettable day for us,” Gasol said as reported by the associated press. “We just worked so hard to win this championship and I’m just super proud of my teammates.”
The decisive victory over Serbia was particularly sweet since Spain had opened the tournament with a 66-57 loss to the Serbs. The Spaniards also dropped an early game to Turkey, but much like the Lakers, Spain played their best when they had to, winning their final five games by an average of 21.2 points.
Spain’s run to the championship included an easy 18-point victory over Greece in the semifinals, a 86-66 quarterfinal win over Tony Parker’s French side, a big victory over Poland and a besting of Lithuania.
Next on Gasol’s list: defense of the NBA title. After all, Lakers training camp is just a couple weeks away.