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Brothers In Arms: Pau And Marc Gasol Go Head-To-Head

Brothers In Arms: Pau And Marc Gasol Go Head-To-Head NBA Experts

The Spurs-Grizzlies series pits a Playoff rivalry between the NBA’s greatest siblings.

In our prime years, playing pick-up basketball in the sweltering summer nights on concrete courts in Varanasi, my elder brother and I developed a unique on-court rivalry. Our games were similar in their athleticism but, in true brotherly fashion, we developed into mirror opposites stylistically. If there was a hole in his game, it became a priority in mine, and vice versa.

We usually played on opposite teams and often guarded each other. On the surface, we were trying to be better than the other eight players on court; at a deeper level, we were just trying to out-do each other. There was a thrill in winning and an extra thrill in defeating your sibling: the trash talk lasted for hours after, the scars cut deep, only to be resolved at the next game.

It is with this experience that I can particularly empathize with Pau and Marc Gasol, the NBA’s greatest ever sibling duo, who are meeting each other for the first time in the postseason as the Spurs and the Grizzlies play in the First Round of the 2017 Playoffs.

Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images

The stories of the two Gasols are tightly interwoven. Pau is 36 and Marc is 32. Those are also the ages of my elder brother and I, and that is pretty much where our “similarities” end, because the two Gasols are skilled seven-footers, who have become two of the greatest international players that the NBA has ever seen.  Both Gasols were born in Barcelona and began their early careers at the FC Barcelona basketball club. Both players achieved club success and became stars in the Spanish national team. Pau, who is regarded as one of the greatest and most successful international basketball players ever, took the lead in the early 2000s, and little brother Marc eventually made his mark, too.

In the NBA, they were linked together through one career-defining trade. The story began for Pau in 2001, where he was the 3rd pick by the Atlanta Hawks, but was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and went on to become a Rookie of the Year. Pau became a superstar in Memphis, but failed to advance past the First Round of the playoffs. In 2008, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, and the rights to the 48th pick in the 2007 Draft, which just happened to be younger brother Marc. Marc had been drafted but spent one more season in Spain before joining the NBA in 2008. Like Pau, his career began in Memphis, too.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Alongside Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, Pau made three consecutive Finals and solidified his Hall of Fame status with two NBA championships. He played briefly for the Bulls and this season, signed for the San Antonio Spurs, where age has limited his production, but he still remains a valuable rotation piece for coach Gregg Popovich. Over his 16-year NBA career, he has made four All-NBA Teams. He recently became just the fourth NBA player to reach 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists and 1500 blocks.

 

While Pau made his name on the offensive end, Marc developed into a defensive beast. Considered a throw-away in the Pau trade by the Lakers, Marc evolved into a pleasant surprise and a centerpiece for the Grizzlies. In nine years in Memphis, he has been a Defensive Player of the Year (2013), made two All-NBA Teams, and one All-Defensive Team.

Pau’s heydays are done. His numbers as a sixth man in San Antonio are down to 12.4 points, and 7.8 rebounds per game. Marc, averaging 19.5 points and 6.2 rebounds, is clearly the more valuable Gasol. While Pau’s efforts are an added bonus to a Spurs’ squad that will rely on Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker for their championship dreams, Marc is one of his team’s most important players. Marc’s production on both ends of the floor will determine if Memphis have any chance of pulling an upset victory in this series.

The first two games of the series went as expected. Marc was the better performer, but it was Pau’s team that got the victories. One won the individual matchup, the other won the games. If they are anything like me and my brother, both will have trash-talk fodder that will keep them up all night.

WATCH: Best plays from Pau and Marc in 2016-17

Despite our competitive spirits, the best moments for my brother and I came when we played together. It was as if a symbiotic switch was clicked on: we made great teammates, understood each other’s games perfectly and were practically unbeatable. Together, the Gasols have done great things for their national team, too, leading the formidable Spanish frontcourt together to two Olympic silver medals and a FIBA World Cup gold.

But for this series, that camaraderie will have to wait. The playoffs have no room for brotherly love where everything is at stake: an important playoff run, a couple of Hall of Fame legacies, and bragging rights in this talented basketball family.

You can follow the writer KARAN MADHOK on Twitter @Hoopistani.

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