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FIBA Basketball World Cup

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019: Marc Gasol wins historic back-to-back championships

When Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded for Marc Gasol last winter at the trade deadline, he did it with one goal in mind: winning the NBA title.

Although the Raptors were already all-in following the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, sending out a trio of younger promising players in Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright for a former All-Star on the back-end of his career sent a signal that his team didn't yet have enough.

He was right as Gasol proved indispensible during Toronto's march towards the title.

MORE: Gasol erupts to carry Spain into World Cup final

Three months after finally winning his first NBA title with the Raptors, Gasol's leadership and will to win is once again on display in China as he leads Spain into the gold medal game on Sunday at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Prior to the Semi-Finals, Gasol had been in the midst of an under-stated tournament. While his impact was felt on both ends, it was more of the subtle variety: taking charges, threading timely passes, and anchoring the defence.

For all of the beauty his game has to offer, 11.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on 41% shooting isn't exactly lighting the world on fire.

For all of the talk of doing the dirty work and making all of the quiet plays that don't show up in the box score, Gasol had yet to truly show up and show out.

MORE: Gasol shines in doing the dirty work

Through the first half of Friday's game against Australia, it was more of the same script. After scoring four points in the first half and watching as the rest of his teammates couldn't buy a bucket against an Australia side chomping at the bit to turn a tight game into a blowout, Gasol took matters into his own hands.

No more Mr. Do All Of The Little Things.

Gasol hopped into a time machine at halftime and came out of the break with one mission: dominate.

He scored 29 of Spain's 63 points after the break and time and again flexed his muscles as the best player on the floor. He sunk clutch free throws at both the end of regulation and overtime. He came up with big blocks with the game in doubt. He scored seven of Spain's nine points in overtime to keep his team in it.

It's been almost two years since Gasol carried that type of load offensively as his 33 points were the most he's scored since dropping 35 with the Grizzlies back in November 2017.

MORE: Will Marc Gasol make the Hall of Fame?

It's remarkable that he's able to muster up that kind of performance especially when considering that he's been playing basketball nearly non-stop for almost a year. Beginning with last year's preseason, the now 34-year-old has played competitive basketball in 11 of the last 12 months and won't get much of a break after this is over either with NBA training camp just a few weeks around the corner.

Should Spain go on to win, Gasol would claim an NBA title and a FIBA world championship in one year, something that simply doesn't happen. In fact, the only other person who has ever done it is Lamar Odom who won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010 before playing on the USA team that won gold at the FIBA World Cup in Turkey.

Although Odom started every game for that United States squad, he didn't carry close to the load that Gasol does on this Spain team. Unlike Odom, Gasol doesn't have the luxury of leaning on the likes of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. He's looking over his shoulders at Ricky Rubio and Sergio Llull, accomplished players but nowhere remotely close to the NBA All-Star types sprinkled throughout that USA team.

Taking it all into consideration, it's not that far-fetched to make the claim that Gasol is knocking on the doorsteps of completing the single-most impressive accomplishment in the history of the world championships by carrying a team to the gold medal immediately on the heels of reaching the mountain top in the world's best league.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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