This is not the first time Marc Gasol has dominated for a team in Memphis.
As a tall, chubby teenager, Gasol starred at Lausanne, a private school in east Memphis. He and his family moved to Memphis after his older brother, Pau, was drafted by the Grizzlies in 2001. Marc, who barely spoke English, dominated on the court. He was bigger than virtually everyone he faced, but he still loved squaring up from beyond the arc and draining three-pointers.
As a senior at Lausanne, Gasol averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds, six blocked shots and five assists.
"I was just having fun because everybody was so much shorter than me,” Gasol told the New York Times in a recent profile. “Honestly, my stats in high school were ridiculous. They made no sense.”
After graduating, Gasol moved back to Spain to work on his game. Over five years he transformed from a chubby, awkward big man into a legitimate NBA prospect. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, an assistant during Pau Gasol's tenure in Memphis, remembers seeing Marc during the Grizzlies' preseason trip to Spain in 2003. He was blown away by how much the youngster had developed.
"I was like, 'Wow, that’s not the same kid,'" Hollins told the New York Times.
When Marc Gasol landed in Memphis, in a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers that included his older brother, the Grizzlies were beginning a rebuilding phase and many fans were upset to see the team trade away its star. But now, some six years later, the younger Gasol has come into his own. His Grizzlies are the surprise of the NBA playoffs thus far, upsetting both the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder en route to the franchise's first appearance in the Western Conference finals.
And the team's newfound success is in no small part due to the strong play of Gasol, the 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. In five games against the Thunder, Gasol averaged 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 42 minutes. In Wednesday's series-sealing victory, Gasol hit a 19-footer to silence
the crowd in Oklahoma City and give the Grizzlies an insurmountable lead.
For some who saw Gasol as a gangly high schooler more than a decade ago, it might seem improbable that he has led the team to new heights. And if you were to see a photo of Gasol from that period, you might agree.
"We crack jokes sometimes about what he used to [look like] in high school," Zach Randolph told ESPN. "But man, he's just been growing as a person and individually. The guy's great, man. He's constantly getting better. I'm proud of him."