• Reuters

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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 theater.

Gasol, who stands at 215 cm, made his professional debut in 1998 with Barca as a center before being signed by the NBA’s 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 — what would be his final international tournament — where Spain lost in the quarterfinals to the United States.

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 teammate 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.”

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