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Standing Tall

Gabriel Labaleta, number 50 with his teammate Pavle Mihajlovic. Photo by Erisha Menon

By: Erisha Menon

Gabriel Muñoz Labaleta, tallest man in Waldorf University grew up in Madrid, Spain, on September 7, 1993. Labaleta is now a sophomore majoring in Sport Management and Business.

With a dream to continue his higher education while pursuing his passion in basketball, Labaleta had the opportunity to do it so here in the States. Besides that, he is also a part of the Biology Club and ­­a Resident Assistant of Waldorf University. One of his hobbies is playing video games and sometimes hiking

Growing up in Madrid, Labaleta developed the love for basketball at an early age but he did not get the opportunity to actively play till he was 18. “I played basketball for one year when I was in middle school but I stopped.” Labaleta later realized that he needed to continue playing basketball and decided to start actively playing again.

“During practice, I feel like I am in another world. It is a different life, surrounded by my team mates,” said Labaleta. He also said that whenever he is at the court, he never gets tired no matter what. “It doesn’t feel like work that you get tired of because I am doing something I am passionate about.”

While he was playing in a league in Spain, his team won first place a year and third place another year.

Recently on the dean’s list for astounding GPA, a quote that Labaleta lives by is “keep going”. He said that life can put you down and you can face many obstacles but if you are passionate enough about something, keep going and you will get it. His idol in life is Pau Gasol, Spanish professional basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association, a six-time NBA All-Star, and a four-time All-NBA selection. “I don’t know but people always compare me with him and I take that as my motivation.”

Labaleta stands at 7ft 3in, one of the top ten tallest people in Spain. With the advantages of being tall, Labaleta still has to deal with other concerns. He often receives various reactions everywhere he goes. Labaleta said that

people may think that because of his height, it is easy to play basketball, but it is not the truth.

“Me, being skinny and tall, doesn’t actually get a huge advantage while playing.” It is an advantage but not all the time. Because of his height, Labaleta has another advantage. His vision. He knows how to see his team mates next move and have their back.

Being one of the tallest people around, Labaleta has funny stories and incidences for days. He was walking one day, and someone asked him about his height. He said he was 7’3 and the stranger’s next question was “Can I see it?” Labaleta was so confused because the stranger was already looking at him. “I come across so many weird reactions, conversations and most of the time it’s awkward,” said Labaleta.

It was very difficult for Labaleta growing up because of his height but later he has gotten used to it. Labaleta understood why people reacted that way. “Now, it is easier.”

Labaleta future plan after graduation is to travel for a while and then get a stable job. He is also considering to play professionally in Europe.