Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Pau Gasol scores with roles off the court

By Rebecca Angel Baer, CNN
updated 9:21 AM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NBA player Pau Gasol is an ambassador for UNICEF
  • Gasol has hands-on role with UNICEF, visiting communities in need and raising funds for them
  • Gasol pledged to donate $1,000 for every point he scored in game after Typhoon Haiyan
  • He and brother Marc Gasol started a foundation to help children live healthier lives

(CNN) -- Pau Gasol is a seasoned and accomplished basketball player, both in the NBA and in his native Spain. His list of accolades is almost as long as he is tall -- two NBA championships, two silver Olympic medals, NBA Rookie of the Year, to name a few.

But the Los Angeles Laker finds success isn't measured solely by his performance on the hardwood. He maintains a wider perspective on his role off the court and just what his duties should be.

"I don't like to use the term celebrity, but people that are known have a responsibility because you have the potential of impacting people's lives," Gasol says. "And regardless of what you do or you don't do, you are a role model. People look up to you. They pay attention to your actions, so it's up to you whether you want those actions to have a positive impact or a negative impact."

Early in his career, Gasol reached out and became a UNICEF ambassador in 2003.

"I wanted to be a good role model for the children that look up to me and make a difference in society beyond my own needs and accomplishment," he says.

Over the past decade Gasol has dedicated much of his time off court to his role as ambassador. Most recently he helped respond to the immense need for aid in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck in November. Gasol knows the people of the Philippines will need assistance for a long time.

To inspire others to donate to UNICEF's efforts in the region, Gasol pledged to donate $1,000 for every point he scored in a game against the Golden State Warriors shortly after the typhoon hit. He also took to Twitter and Facebook to encourage fans to join in and pledge for each point he scored.

"I was also carrying that responsibility, and it made me focus even more and made me want to do better and score more points and have more people donating and helping all the people in the Philippines," Gasol says.

In addition to raising money for UNICEF, Gasol accompanies the group on trips to communities in need whenever he can.

"It's real important to me. And that's one thing that I told UNICEF. After my first year of being with them, I told them that I needed to go and see and feel for myself," he says. "Because then I would be able to share my experiences and talk about it with knowledge of what's really going on. So if I wanted to be a good ambassador for UNICEF, I needed to live it."

His 7-foot frame often stands out on these trips, but the NBA superstar makes an even bigger impact by trying to better the lives of the world's most vulnerable.

"Kids are our future. So if you provide good teaching, good guidance to kids, I think we're going to have a brighter future. And I think that every kid should have the right to get an education, have a right to play, have a right to -- a chance -- basically."

Beyond his duties with UNICEF, Gasol and his younger brother and fellow NBA player, Marc Gasol, created the Gasol Foundation.

"We wanted to have our own foundation and create our own legacy outside of basketball, something that we could invest our time and dedicate ourselves to in the future -- during, but also when we were done playing," Pau Gasol says.

The Gasol Foundation aims to empower children to lead healthier lives. Gasol and his brother work with local chapters of the Boys and Girls Club in Los Angeles and Memphis, Tennessee, where they each play and live, respectively. They have a variety of programs to guide children into making smart choices about foods and activities.

"We really connect with children. I like to feel like children look up to us ... and we have a tremendous power of influence (on) these kids. So if we give them that positive influence, it makes a huge difference," Gasol says. "We try to empower these kids to live healthier lives through exercise, through good nutrition and understanding how picking up healthy habits from an early life is going to save them from a lot of health issues down the road."

Gasol says everyone must decide what his mission in life will be.

"(I) just try to remind myself how fortunate I am and also just how much I like to inspire others by my actions."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT