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Summer Olympics Athletes: Pau Gasol, Spain Basketball Player

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Per its official website, the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will start on Friday, July 27. The Olympic men's basketball tournament will begin two days later, on Sunday, July 29, and run until Sunday, Aug. 12.

Men's basketball has a long Olympic history, having been introduced as a medal sport at the 1936 Berlin Games. Per USA Basketball, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) instituted a major change to the event in 1992 when it allowed NBA players to take part in the Olympic basketball competitions. This was an important move, because, at that time, many of the best players in the world were in the NBA (and that is still the case today). As a result of the IOC's decision, some countries were able to field much better teams than they had in the past.

NBA players from a number of different countries will take part in the Olympic basketball tournament being held in London. One of these athletes is Spain's Pau Gasol. Here is some information on this Olympic basketball star.

All of the data comes from the NBA's official website unless otherwise noted.

Name: Pau Gasol

Country: Spain

Date of Birth: July 6, 1980

Height: 7 feet

Positions: Forward, center

Hometown: Barcelona, Spain (per NBC)

Currently Resides: Los Angeles, Calif. (per NBC)

Twitter Name: @paugasol

Personal Website: PauGasol.com

NBA Brother: Pau Gasol's younger brother, Marc Gasol, plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Multilingual: He speaks English, Spanish, and Catalan.

Philanthropist: Pau Gasol has worked with a number of charities, including UNICEF, Memphis City Schools, and the Boys and Girls Club.

Did You Know?: For most of his youth (until he was about 13 years old), Pau Gasol played point guard.

Professional Career: Per NBC, Pau Gasol began his professional career with the Spanish team, FC Barcelona, in 1999. He played for two seasons with FC Barcelona before moving on to the NBA. He was drafted in the first round in 2001 by the Atlanta Hawks, but was subsequently traded to the Memphis Grizzlies before the season began. The Grizzlies shipped Gasol off to the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2007-2008 season, and he has played for that team ever since. He has made three NBA Finals and won two of them during his tenure with the Lakers.

NBA Awards: Rookie of the Year in 2001, selected as an NBA All-Star four times (per NBC), All-NBA Third Team in 2009 and 2010, All-NBA Second Team in 2011.

Career with Spain's Basketball Team: Per NBC, Pau Gasol's first significant stint with the Spanish national basketball team was in 2001. He has represented Spain in most major basketball competitions since that time. In 2006, Gasol helped Spain win a gold medal in basketball at the FIBA World Championships. He was also named MVP of that tournament. The Spanish team, with Gasol on board, won the Eurobasket Championship in 2009.

Olympic History: Per Fox Sports, Pau Gasol played for Spain in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. In 2008, his Spanish team won the silver medal.

More from this contributor:

Summer Olympics Athletes: Five Australian Athletes to Watch

Summer Olympics Athletes: Five Brazilian Athletes to Watch

Summer Olympics U.S. Athletes: Kerri Walsh

The author is a freelance writer who played basketball in his youth. He has been a fan of the Summer Olympics since 1988 and has followed NBA basketball for several years.

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