Earlier this season, the Los Angeles Lakers raised their latest jersey into the rafters, that of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pau Gasol. One of the most skilled big men the league has ever seen, Gasol helped the Lakers to two NBA Championships and was the perfect partner for Kobe Bryant.
The Spaniard was an integral part of the Lakers from the moment he joined the team back in 2008 and remains one of the most beloved former players throughout the organization and by fans. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has has regularly praised Gasol for what he has meant to the franchise and in an interview with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda.com, recalled Gasol arriving to the Lakers and immediately fitting in:
“Pau came into the team that was running the triangle offense. He picked up the offense in three days. He didn’t miss a beat. He was the perfect player […] Here was the ultimate player that fit so perfectly in what we were doing. He fit with Kobe and what Kobe wanted to accomplish. Then the team just took off on a run all the way to the NBA Finals only to lose to our No. 1 rival, the Boston Celtics. That was a heartbreaker. But to come back to win the next two was really special.”
Gasol bouncing back after the 2008 Finals to be an absolute force in 2009 and, especially, 2010 in the rematch with the Boston Celtics was extremely gratifying. It was undoubtedly the pinnacle of his NBA career, but unfortunately those good times didn’t last.
Between the vetoed trade that saw him return to the Lakers and being unable to fit with new coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, there was a rough stretch until he ultimately left, something Buss admitted was hard to see:
“That was a very frustrating time, certainly for our entire organization. At that time, my dad was nearing the end of his life with his illness. It was a difficult time. I don’t know how things could’ve gone differently […] Pau wasn’t a player that fit into the kind of style of play that Mike D’Antoni wanted to play. That’s where you’re not on the same page and your roster can’t adjust quickly enough to what Mike wanted to do […] When Pau left as a free agent (in 2014), that was his choice to do. He felt he had a better opportunity to go someplace else. It was hard to see Pau go. That was the next step in his journey.”
But there was absolutely no love lost, which is why the Lakers still celebrate Gasol to this day. But Buss wants everyone to recognize Gasol not just as a Laker, but as a true global leader:
“His celebration was Lakers centric when we retired his jersey here. But going into the Hall-of-Fame, people need to realize his entire journey as a person and as a player that he is one of the great European players to come into our league and be successful.
“It’s that global influence that he’s had and will continue to have going forward. He’s such a world leader, not just a Los Angeles Laker leader. I think the moments for him going into the basketball Hall-of-Fame will be very important.”
Not only is Gasol one of the greatest international basketball players of all-time, he is really one of the greatest human beings on earth as evidenced by all of the off-the-court work he does and in how he continues to honor his fallen friend, the late, great Kobe Bryant.
If there is anyone who deserves to be celebrated, it is Pau Gasol.
Jeanie Buss says Lakers will retire LeBron James’ jersey
Gasol is the most recent player to have their jersey retired by the Lakers, and the next one will undoubtedly be LeBron James, something that was confirmed by Buss.
The Lakers owner reiterated that the organization retires jerseys when a player goes into the Hall of Fame and once that becomes official for LeBron, his jersey will join those of the rest of the Lakers greats in the rafters.
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