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Tailgating: Marc Gasol escapes from brother’s shadow, arrives as elite NBA big man with All-Star selection

Clarksville, TN – For much of his life, Marc Gasol has seemingly lived in the shadows.

Already growing up in the shadow of his older Pau Gasol, who starred for Spanish basketball powerhouse Barcelona, Marc continued to remain the forgotten Gasol when Pau was taken in the 2001 NBA Draft and shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies.

After the Gasol family made the move to Memphis to stay close to Pau, Marc continued to search for his own basketball glory.

Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol.
Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol.

Gasol appeared to have captured a bit of personal spotlight in 2003, leading Lausanne Collegiate School to the TSSAA D-II state title game in Murfreesboro.

In that championship game, however, Gasol would be upstaged yet again.

This time then-freshman (and current Mavericks) forward Brandan Wright, who led Brentwood Academy to a 69-48 blowout win – presumably to many ending the chubby 7-footer’s basketball relevancy in America.

After winning Mr. Basketball honors in Tennessee, Gasol returned to Spain, playing three years of professional basketball before being drafted by the Lakers with one of the final picks in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Then, after winning Spanish League MVP honors in 2008, Gasol would yet again wind up in his brother’s shadow when the then-lowly Grizzlies dealt Pau to the Lakers in one of the most controversial trades in league history.

Marc’s draft rights were included in that now-famous trade, but with much of the attention focused on Pau going to Hollywood, Marc’s rights were considered nothing more than a novelty item to the casual basketball fan.

“Nobody wanted me at first,” Marc recently reflected to The Commercial-Appeal . “The Lakers said you can show up for training camp (in 2007) and we’ll give you a practice jersey. But they never told me to come here and be part of the team. They never offered me that.”

Then, along the way, a funny thing happened.

Once again lost in the shadows of his brother’s consecutive NBA championships, Marc began to quietly flourish in the Bluff City, steadily improving the Grizzlies along the way.

After averaging 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his first full NBA season, Gasol nearly averaged a double-double in 2010 before missing the season’s final 13 games due to injury.

The Grizzlies were clearly not the same team without Gasol in the starting lineup and fell short of their first playoff berth since 2006.

A year ago, the Spaniard returned to the hardwood in the best shape of his life, averaging fewer points and fewer rebounds but teaming with Zach Randolph to lead the Grizzlies to the postseason and a first-round upset over the Spurs before falling to the Thunder in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

And while Gasol’s successes have already been recognized by the Grizzlies front office (Gasol signed a new four-year, $58 million dollar contract signed this off season), his peers seem to have finally taken notice as well.

After averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks through the first 27 games of the season, Gasol was named an All-Star reserve for the first time in his NBA career on Thursday.

And, depending on who you ask, Gasol’s performance this season has been good enough to warrant a starting spot on the roster for the February 26 exhibition.

The most notable name Gasol beat out to make the All-Star squad?

Yep. His brother Pau.

“Obviously I’m not excited that I didn’t get picked,” the elder Gasol said. “It’s an honor and a great recognition for a player to be a part of an NBA All-Star [team], but it’s been a crazy year and either way, obviously it would have been good if I was picked, but there’s not much I can do about it.”

Faced with a perfect opportunity to gloat or claim the sole spotlight for one of the few times in his career, Marc remained humble when he spoke of his selection.

“I’m excited to represent my teammates, the city of Memphis and my people back home (in Spain),” Gasol said. “It’s a great honor.”

“I’m going to enjoy it. It’s not something that happens every day.”

No it’s not, Marc. Especially not for a player with a journey like yours.

Enjoy it big fella, you’ve earned it.

Wade Neelyhttp://www.twitter.com/WadeNeely
Wade Neely comes to Clarksville after beginning his sports media career in March 2010 as the Sports Director at WKSR AM-FM in Pulaski, Tenn. During his time at WKSR, Neely created, produced and hosted "The Wade Neely Morning Show", Pulaski's only live and local wakeup program on WKSR-AM. Neely also served as the "Voice of the Bobcats", providing play-by-play for all Giles County football, basketball and select baseball contests. Neely also served as Director of Broadcasting at Martin Methodist College beginning in January 2011, providing play-by-play for all RedHawks home contests as well as the team's trip to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. Originally from Pulaski, Neely earned his B.S. in Electronic Media Communication from Middle Tennessee State University's famed College of Mass Communications. Neely also minored in Economics during undergraduate career.

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