Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol has a long resume with two NBA championships and multiple FIBA gold medals. Now he can add author to the list.
Collaborating with former Los Angeles Times photographer Lori Shepler, Gasol recently released a 290-page photo book titled “Life · Vida.”
“It’s been a long process and we’ve put a lot of heart and work into it. We’re really happy with the result,” said Gasol about his new endeavor. "[I wanted to] share some values, some thoughts, inspire [and maybe] guide some people.”
“Life · Vida” includes more than 200 photographs, including shots of Gasol in action with the Lakers and the Spanish National Team.
Much of the book shows Gasol in private time with his family, at home cooking, singing in the shower, visiting children in need, pumping gas and the like.
Gasol shares his thoughts on life, leadership and teamwork in English and Spanish text. A Spanish-only version will be available in Spain on Nov. 26.
Naturally Gasol includes a section on All-Star teammate Kobe Bryant.
“He is like a brother to me,” writes Gasol of Bryant, and in Spanish, “Es como un hermano para mi.”
“To have his respect and support means a lot to me. He can count on me for anything because that’s the kind of friendship that I have with him,” writes Gasol. "I know he might not need many things, but if he needs a true friend who is going to support him, he can definitely count on me.”
Bryant contributes one of three forwards to the book, echoing Gasol’s message of brotherhood.
“I would be proud of my brother,” writes Bryant if Gasol were his. "I’d tell him to write a great book. And I would be honored to write the forward.”
Phil Jackson and Spanish National Team guard Juan Carlos Navarro also give their blessing.
“Pau is a Renaissance Man,” writes Jackson. "He’s a son I could adopt very easily and embrace. To have a book about his life and his interests off the court is a great expression about who he is as an individual.”
“With Pau, what you see is what you get,” writes Navarro. "And you will see his is a calm person with common interests just like everybody else.”
All of Gasol’s proceeds from the book will go to the Gasol Foundation, which is “dedicated to empowering young people to live healthier lives.”
Throughout the book, Gasol comes across, as he does in person, as humble and caring.
“I am a role model, and there are kids from all over the world who follow me and pay attention to my actions,” Gasol writes. "It’s a responsibility that I take a lot of pride in.”
“I am who I am, with my virtues and flaws, but I understand the responsibility and the power of my position. All eyes are on me and I have an impact on people. Whether that impact is positive or negative is my responsibility, it’s up to me to blaze a meaningful path.”
Gasol also writes about coming to the Lakers after a 2008 trade from the Memphis Grizzlies.
“From the moment I landed in Los Angeles, the message was clear: ‘Welcome to the Lakers, we are happy to have you, no let’s get that ring.’ Both Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant were very clear about that message.”
He also reflects on the ups and downs since the Lakers won two titles, including a difficult time in 2011 when the team was swept by the Dallas Mavericks.
“I was going through some family issues that clearly affected me. It was a lot to deal with at the time. I wasn’t able to shake it off, and as much as I tried, my heart and I were not in the right place to do what I’m used to doing on the basketball court.”
He also gives his feelings on the team’s coaching carousel and his near-trade to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul in 2011.
“The last two season have been challenging and difficult. The constant trade rumors, injuries and coaching changes -- from Phil Jackson to Mike Brown, from Mike to Bernie Bickerstaff and from Bernie to Mike D’Antoni -- have been a lot to take in.”
Despite NBA and international titles, Gasol has felt scrutiny over the years for not being physical enough as a player.
“One criticism arises from stereotypes of athletes: that we need to be aggressive; that all athletes should have great strength and toughness, and, for the most part, no brains. I don’t really feel like I fit that stereotype,” he writes.
“I am myself. I’m extremely proud of my qualities and my gifts. I’m very competitive and I can be aggressive when I need to be,” continues Gasol. "I can be very physical, but that’s not my first instinct. It won’t come out naturally when I’m at peace and calm. It emerges when I’m competing, when I’m challenged and when I feel like it’s a win-or-lose situation.”
Other topics include his work as a philanthropist, in children’s hospitals and as a UNICEF ambassador.
“Life · Vida” can be purchased on the Gasol Foundation website. Gasol will host a book signing on Nov. 19 at Nike Vault in downtown Los Angeles.