Throughout the illustrious history of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, remarkably only one athlete has won World Cup and NBA titles in the same year.
One more, Marc Gasol of Spain, who won the NBA title with the Toronto Raptors, has the chance to do it this year.
The player currently alone with that unique distinction is Lamar Odom who did the double in 2010 with Team USA and the Los Angeles Lakers. After the Lakers bested the Boston Celtics in seven games on June 17, Odom stood atop the podium three months later on September 12 in Istanbul with his USA teammates hoisting the Naismith Trophy.
Odom had previously claimed a bronze medal with the USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The 2010 NBA title was his second with the Lakers who also took the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2009. He was honored as the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2011.
Meanwhile, Gasol has been a stalwart for the Spanish national team since 2006 with a drawer full of medals including gold at the 2006 World Cup in Japan, two Olympic silver medals from Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and two gold, one silver and two bronze medals from five FIBA EuroBasket tournaments over the past decade.
For the humble Gasol, the distinction for himself is not as important as is what it would mean for La Roja.
“I just cherish every moment for what it is. I don’t try to double up. I want to give the maximum for every occasion. It is two completely different situations. I’m going to give my best to win a World Cup for Spain,” Gasol told FIBA.basketball.
Averaging 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game, the 34-year-old center has anchored Spain’s unbeaten run in China, even with a lower than usual clip from the field.
Spain rattled off three wins in the First Round, added two more in the Second Round and eliminated Poland with a 90-78 victory in the Quarter-Finals to enter the upcoming Semi-Final clash against Australia, also without a defeat, with a 6-0 record.
To crown their their so-far perfect Chinese adventure with the Naismith Trophy, Spain will need to add two more wins to their tally. And if anyone knows a thing or two about getting it done on the global stage for the Spaniards, it is the experienced big man.
He captured the title in 2006, the last time the FIBA Basketball World Cup was organized in Asia, alongside his older brother Pau.
“Just thinking about it [winning the World Cup] makes me smile and reminds me of so many good things,” said Marc, one of two remnants from the title-winning squad together with Rudy Fernandez.
Whether time has come for Spain to lift the trophy again, only time will tell. But if they do, Marc Gasol will be only the second player in the history to do so on the same season he won the NBA.