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Pau Gasol: Kobe Bryant inspired me to play for Spain in Tokyo Olympics

Pau Gasol of Spain and Kobe Bryant of Team USA at the London Olympics

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Kobe Bryant #10 of the US Men’s Senior National Team hugs Pau Gasol #4 of Spain during their Men’s Gold Medal Basketball Game on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Pau Gasol, derailed by a foot injury, hasn’t played in the NBA in more than two years. He considered retirement. He turned 41 earlier this month.

Yet, Gasol is playing for Spain in the Tokyo Olympics.

A reason: His late friend, Kobe Bryant.

Gasol, via Mark Medina of USA Today:

“I kept him in mind a lot of the days to say hey, ‘Kobe would be pushing himself,’” Gasol told USA TODAY Sports. “Kobe would not be taking this workout easy or not skipping anything. He would be really disciplined, trusting and being committed to the work. He’s always a big presence with me. He’s always going to be an inspiration and motivation in my life.”
“He really pushed himself to the limit,” Gasol said. “He pushed through a lot of injuries and a lot of pain and discomfort. He was relentless and very disciplined on his rehab and his recovery. During my recovery, I always had him present.”

Bryant remains an inspiration to so many people for his drive, competitiveness and work ethic.

Bryant motivating Gasol around the Olympics is especially fitting.