Spain claim World Title
The big fellow was the biggest reason Spain had a chance to get their first world title. And even without him, they did win. Spain is the best team in the basketball world.
Indeed, the red team won it without Gasol on Sunday night, pulling away in the first quarter of a 70-47 victory over Greece before a packed house of 18,500 at Saitama Super Arena.
It's important to say that Gasol, who suffered a fractured metatarsal in his left foot in the closing minutes of his team's 75-74 semifinal victory on Friday over Argentina, watched the game from the bench.
Jorge Garbajosa replaced him as the starting pivotman. Felipe Reyes got the nod at power forward, Garbajosa's customary position.
When the match finished, Spanish fans rejoiced in unison: Campeones, campeones, ole, ole, ole! (Champions, champions . . .).
Garbajosa and Juan Carlos "La Bomba" Navarro scored 20 points apiece. Reyes had 10.
Greece's Mihalis Kakiouzis had a team-high 17 points and Theodoros Papaloukas had 10.
The James Naismith Trophy was presented to Gasol, the 212-cm center, during the awards ceremony. Generally, the captain is handed the trophy, but teammate/captain Carlos Jimenez deferred the honor to Gasol, who limped as he walked with the trophy held high above his head.
A nation celebrated together as the giant's long arms lifted the hardware.
Gasol also earned the World Championship's MVP trophy. He finished the tournament with 21.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Jimenez and Garbajosa led Spain's effort inside, grabbing 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively. Spain held a 42-34 edge on the glass.
An injured Gasol, watching from the bench in jeans, also burst into tears at the final buzzer as the Spain players hugged each other and danced with joy.
"I'm super-proud of the team," Gasol said with great emotion. He suffered a broken metatarsal in Friday's semi-final victory over Argentina.
"I just couldn't contain myself from crying. We played the match with so much hunger and passion. Not being able to play really hurt me but today I couldn't be happier."
Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero praised the players on their achievement.
"I congratulate the squad," he expressed to reporters in Spain. "They have shown great sportsmanship and proven that above all they are a team." It's just the most important moment of their lives.