Imagine going to the opera: getting all dressed to the nines, shelling out hard-earned money for great tickets only to get stuck sitting behind a 7-foot tall guy and unable to see a large majority of the show.
There's nothing that illustrates the unique relationship between Pau Gasol and the opera quite like envisioning the Bulls' gentle giant trying to cram his 7-foot frame into a regular seat and doing his best to stay out of the way of fellow audience members.
"I am empathetic about the people behind me," Gasol told the Chicago Tribune in a fascinating story on the link between the Bulls forward and opera.
"I find myself kind of sliding down to make it better or I say to the person behind me, 'I'm going to lean to the right, you just lean to the right, and if you have any issues, let me know.'"
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Gasol, 34, has enjoyed an eventful first season in Chicago, turning in a career year on the court and embarking on a personal journey off the court that included stops at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sesame Street and even a new book chronicling his life. All that culminated in Gasol taking home the Magic Johnson Award last month.
"Pau is a multi-layered, refined type of person," Bulls teammate Nazr Mohammed told the Tribune.
Gasol said he finds an escape in the opera, attending performances to attain "balance." He's taken Bulls teammates along for the ride, too, hosting Mohammed in December and reportedly bringing rookie Nikola Mirotic along another time.
Gasol has built an unlikely bond with several people in the opera community, including tenor Placido Domingo, who is also from Spain. The two met in L.A. when Gasol was playing for the Lakers and have been friends since, following the other's career.
"It is obvious he likes [opera]," Domingo said. "And it is wonderful he also gives the opportunity to enjoy the opera to his teammates."
Be sure to check out the full profile at the Chicago Tribune. It's well worth a read.