I hate the Los Angeles Lakers; the organization, most of the players, and I despise the team’s astounding success. My hatred doesn’t stem from anything personal. No, it’s purely sports hate, but at times my disdain for the purple and gold blinds my appreciation for basketball and makes it difficult to appreciate the astounding athletes who make the game so beautiful.
Indeed, Pau Gasol is one of those players loathed in my household for his allegiance to the Lakers organization, where he was (unfairly or not) traded for what amounted to three dollars and a bag of chips. Gasol found tremendous success alongside the late great Kobe Bryant, and the duo notched two NBA titles for their efforts. After six seasons with LA, Gasol headed to Chicago for a brief stint, then to San Antonio, then Milwaukee, then to Spain to play in Liga ACB club FC Barcelona … and that was that. After a remarkable career in which he enjoyed a healthy batch of awards, Gasol hung up his sneakers for good.
As the great Wes Mantooth once said: “From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you. But goddammit, do I respect you!”
So it goes with Amazon Prime Video and RTG Features’ docuseries Pau Gasol: It’s About the Journey, which chronicles the amazing career of the 7-foot-1 Spanish center/power forward whilst also taking a step back to examine the man. The four-part series picks up before Gasol’s final season and follows the veteran’s rehab from an injury sustained in the 2018-19 season. We see him journey across the country to visit with doctors, and then back to his home to spend time with his family. We hear from his parents, his brother Marc (also a respected NBA player), and other NBA players/coaches, including Kevin Garnett, Doc Rivers, and Phil Jackson, who inform us of Gasol’s good nature, decency, competitiveness, and determination.
That’s all par for the course.
What makes It’s About the Journey worth the look is the unique angle it takes to its subject matter. Sure, we learn all about Gasol’s rise to stardom, what ultimately led him to LA, and so on, but we also witness the man’s personal struggle as he comes to grips with Father Time. Like all great athletes, Gasol’s journey comes to an end relatively quickly and seemingly abruptly. It’s difficult to watch a man who clearly loves the game of basketball endure countless surgeries and medical exams for one last chance at superstardom.
“After retiring, the divorce rate goes up substantially for an NBA player,” Gasol says at one point. “It starts a process of emptiness, depression; and he also starts facing a reality at home that’s different — those homes and families suffer. A lot of them are broken.”
Indeed, most players leave the sport in their late 30s and must deal with a “normal” life that doesn’t consist of daily grinds on the basketball court, long plane rides or bus trips to different cities, etc. And while players like Gasol work in side organizations or dabble in coaching or even broadcasting, nothing quite matches the ferocity of a life in the NBA.
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” said the late Kobe Bryant.
No, It’s About the Journey doesn’t break any new ground in terms of a docuseries presentation. It’s fairly straightforward and comes attached with the usual melodramatic beats; and, like all films of its ilk, tends to paint its subject in a saintly light. Yet, by series end, I felt I better understood Pau Gasol the man, and, Laker or not, came to respect him as an athlete.
That has to count for something.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.