Sure, winning back-to-back NBA titles in 2009 and 2010 was a big deal for Pau Gasol, but don't underestimate how much it meant for him to collect two awards for his contributions to the community in the span of less than a month.
Gasol, who was already presented with the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award during the Lakers' second-round series against the Thunder, found himself honored again Monday as the first annual recipient of the Kia Community Assist Award.
Gasol was recognized at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and presented a $25,000 check to the establishment. Gasol was also presented with the David Robinson Plaque for his charitable efforts, named after the longtime San Antonio Spurs center who was known for his philanthropic works.
Gasol made frequent visits to the hospital this past year, on occasion even revisiting his pre-medical school student days by putting on scrubs and observing a procedure from the operating room. Gasol also facilitated a new partnership this year between the hospital and Grifols, a Barcelona-based global health care company. The company has since donated a Phocus RX machine to the hospital.
"I don’t have children of my own yet, hopefully one day I will, but I know that for my child I would do anything and I would want my child to be in the best hands and I know that my child would be in great hands, in the best hands, here in this hospital," Gasol said.
Gasol was flanked by four children with associations with the hospital who presented him with a framed photograph from one of the surgeries he observed.
"As much as I might have touched their lives, they’ve touched my life," Gasol said. "It’s very rewarding. To me, it’s not an effort at all. It’s a privilege that I’ve been given and it’s an opportunity that I would like to continue to take advantage of ... It’s really special to me. It completes me as a human being and I think it’s encouraging for me to continue to follow this path."
Dr. David Skaggs, who Gasol has developed a bond with through the hospital, had very kind things to say about the Lakers' power forward.
"I would be proud if my children grew up to be like Pau and I think that we could not have a better role model for this country, for everybody around the world and this country, to see Pau and to hope to grow up like him one day, to understand how to give back to take care of those less fortunate than you," Skaggs said.
Gasol shared in the mutual appreciation society with the doctor.
"It's amazing to watch it and to see how precise they are and see how they work as a team in the O.R., how important that is and they're so gifted. So many hours, so many years of preparation and education put into that and they're so passionate about it. Dr. Skaggs, for instance, he operates like he's making a sandwich or something ... He does it every single day. It's a routine. It's something like shooting hoops for me. It's pretty amazing."
Added Gasol: "To me, it’s just magic performed in front of my eyes. To be able to change a kid’s life for the better in that way, it’s amazing."
Pau Gasol's Kia Community Assist Award acceptance speech:
Gasol on his involvement with Los Angeles Children's Hospital:
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.