For the last 12 years, Marc Gasol and LeBron James have had their battles. While they’ve never played each other in the NBA Playoffs, they’ve gone head-to-head on the international stage a few times.
In 2006, Gasol and Spanish men’s basketball team beat James and Team USA in the FIBA World Cup semi-final. Spain went on to win the tournament. Then, in 2008, Team USA got their revenge at the Olympic Games in Beijing, where they beat Spain in the Gold Medal Game 118-107. Team USA also beat Spain for the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics Games in London. That’s over a decade’s worth of history.
Now, James and Gasol will put all of that behind them to try and win some hardware with the Los Angeles Lakers — okay, maybe not all of it. In an interview with Allie Clifton of Spectrum SportsNet, James took a light jab at Gasol by saying he deserved the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year Award, which Gasol won:
“I’m happy as hell to have Big Marc Gasol ... another champion, won with the Raptors two years ago, who I’ve always loved. Marc has my Defensive Players of the Year trophy at his house, but that’s not here nor there ... I love you Marc, I can’t wait to talk about this.”
To this day, the voting for the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year Award is heavily criticized because Gasol won the award in spite of the fact that he wasn’t voted onto the All-Defensive First Team. James was tied with Tony Allen for the most All-Defensive First Team votes that year.
James and Gasol, who will both be 36 years old soon, might not be competing against each other for the Defensive Player of the Year Award this year, but they’ll both be expected to help the Lakers maintain their status as an elite defensive team. Last season, the Lakers finished the regular season with the third-best defensive rating.
If they can do that and win a championship together, maybe James will be willing to put 2013 aside ... maybe.