Pau Gasol Hanging With Placido Domingo

The Lakers power forward and the force behind the Los Angeles Opera are becoming friends. Only in LA.

Pau Gasol is the most cultured player in the NBA. If you want to have a conversation about the best novels or fine dining, he is one of the few guys in the Association who can speak about those topics intelligently.

But he was never that into opera, at least until recently. Of course, this is LA, so now he’s hanging out with Placido Domingo.

Domingo and Gasol have a lot in common. Both are from Spain. Both are two of the best in the world at what they do. And both are doing their crafts in Downtown Los Angeles — Gasol as a power forward with the Lakers, Domingo with the Los Angeles Opera.

Last week Domingo was in a luxury box watching the Gasol and the Lakers destroy the Knicks. A few days later Gasol was at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion taking in Handel's "Tamerlano." Domingo, as famous an opera star as there is walking the planet, plays the lead as Bajazet, a Turkish sultan.

The two talked in Castilian backstage after Domingo’s performance, and they are trying to coordinate schedules for a dinner and the chance to hang out more.

Opera is not a music heard in NBA locker rooms. Ever. But the 29-year-old Gasol is about the only player in the league who one could consider turning on to the art form. Gasol was raised in Barcelona by his mother the doctor, and has always had an air of European class and style that is uncommon in the NBA

His game even fits that — it is classical and stylish. Gasol is diverse; he is the best passing big man in the NBA and can score around the basket with either hand. He is the best pick-and-roll defender the Lakers have, which was a key reason Los Angeles beat Orlando in five games in the NBA Finals last season.

Gasol spent his first years in the NBA in Memphis, a city with a uniquely American culture. Los Angeles, with its amazing diversity, is a much better fit for the man. They are a wealth of cultural options. It’s where he can meet more like-minded people.

Even a 68-year-old, world-renown opera star. And Los Angeles may be the only city where opera stars want to be seen with basketball players.

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles where he is runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).

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