Angel City Sports honors Lakers legend Pau Gasol

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
The non-profit's gala celebrated a “Community of Champions” and Gasol’s efforts for equitable sports access.

CULVER CITY, Calif. – The 5th Annual Angel City Sports Awards Gala lit up the night with a celebration of triumph, unity, and the spirit of community. Held in Culver City Saturday night, the event served as a testament to the power of sports in fostering inclusion and empowerment for individuals with physical disabilities and visual impairments.

Pau Gasol, the recipient of the 2024 Community Impact Honoree award, was recognized as the embodiment of excellence both in his basketball career and his philanthropic endeavors. Renowned for his achievements as a two-time NBA champion, six-time NBA All-Star, and three-time Olympic medalist, Gasol’s legacy transcends the confines of the court. 

“I’m very grateful to be honored by Ezra and Angel City Sports, an organization that focuses on making a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities through sport,” said Gasol.

Angel City, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the landscape of sports for kids, adults, and veterans with physical disabilities, and its founders, Ezra and Clayton Frech, took the stage and shared their testimony. 

Ezra, an American Paralympic athlete, presented a video of the first time he met his sporting idol, Gasol. In an oversized Lakers Jersey as a child, the video showed Ezra’s first heartwarming interaction with Gasol. Just under the screen to the right of the stage was Ezra, now an 18-year-old young man, still side-by-side with his sports hero. 

“As a mother of a child with a disability, I know how important it is to have someone who believes in you,” stated Bahar Soomekh, Ezra’s mother. “Pau played a significant role in Ezra’s journey.  He embodies the essence of a true champion, not only on the court but also in the lives of those he touches.” 

Gasol’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame further underscored his status as a true champion, not only in the realm of athletics but also in the realm of humanitarianism. On stage, Gasol highlighted the symbiotic relationship between athletes and the communities they serve, emphasizing the impact of sports in fostering positive change.

The gala, hosted by Fox 11 News anchor Marla Tellez, bustled with energy as attendees gathered to support the mission of Angel City Sports. The ceremony featured testimonials of individuals whose lives have been changed by the organization, as well as a silent live auction that raised vital funds for adaptive sports programs and its athletes.

Through Angel City’s year-round schedule of adaptive sport clinics, comprehensive programs, and supply of accessible equipment, the organization continues to break down barriers and pave the way for individuals of all abilities to thrive in the world of sports. The annual gala not only honored the legacy of Gasol, but also reaffirmed the Angel City’s dedicated commitment to creating a world where every individual, regardless of ability, has the opportunity to soar to new heights.