Growing up, Pau Gasol came to a crossroads at which he had to decide whether to pursue a medical career or play professional basketball.
He soon chose the latter, but the Lakers forward has still tapped into his interest in medicine. His involvement has become so wide-ranging that Gasol won this year's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. Gasol won for his efforts supporting the medical field. Last year, Lakers forward Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest) won for his extensive involvement with supporting mental health charities.
For the past seven years, Gasol has served as a UNICEF ambassador, traveling the world during the off-season working with programs aimed at nutrition and education for children. This past March, Gasol participated in El Rey Theater’s “Play List With the A-List,” in which celebrities sang karaoke in order to raise funds for UNICEF; Gasol sang the Fray's "How to Save a Life." Gasol also released an iBook this year in three different languages, with all proceeds benefiting UNICEF. Gasol plans on another project with UNICEF after he plays for Spain in the Olympic Games in London this summer, from July 29 to Aug. 12.
Gasol frequently visits Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for reasons that go beyond making photo-opportunity appearances. He attended medical school at the University of Barcelona and maintains a strong interest in that field, so much so that he watched a spinal surgery in the summer of 2010. Gasol also visits Memphis' St. Jude's Children's Hospital when the Lakers play the Grizzlies, something he also did frequently when he played in Memphis from 2000 to 2008.