The Los Angeles Lakers acquiring Pau Gasol in the middle of the 2008 season changed the trajectory of the entire franchise. Gasol would team with Kobe Bryant to lead the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Now with Gasol seemingly a lock to enter the Hall of Fame this year, the Lakers are set to retire his No. 16 jersey when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. Prior to the ceremony, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss reflected on Gasol and the impact he had on the franchise, via Mark Medina of NBA.com:
“We always knew that Pau would make it in the Hall of Fame. That’s why we knew at some point we would retire his jersey, and this is the right time for us to do that. He really is unique among Lakers history for all of the great players that we’ve had. We’ve never really had a player with the international background that Pau had as well as him immediately having an impact from the day he joined the Lakers to eventually getting three trips to the NBA Finals and two NBA championships.”
Gasol was truly a unique player, extremely skilled and capable of changing the game in many different ways. The trade that brought him to the franchise was a controversial one as most of the league was unaware Gasol was even available and the Lakers seemed to give up little to acquire the All-Star. But Buss disagrees with that assessment and believes the deal was beneficial to both the Lakers and Grizzlies:
“When my dad [former Lakers owner Jerry Buss] told me that the trade was in the works, all I could think was I hope this does not leak out because I believe there will be teams who will try to convince Memphis not to make the trade and come up with whatever they could to keep us from getting Pau. Most people were shocked at the trade announcement. I think there were even a couple of people in the NBA front offices that made public comments that it was not fair or that they were surprised because nobody saw it coming. The part that I’m most proud of is that it did not leak out and the trade was able to happen.
“It was a good deal. People have to remember that it set the Lakers on a winning course. But it was also good for Memphis because it received Marc Gasol, who ended up being a cornerstone for that franchise for many, many seasons. My dad always said the best business deals are the ones where both sides benefit.”
Gasol and his partnership with Kobe was what drove the Lakers to the success they had in the late-2000s. From the moment he joined the team it was clear that he was a perfect fit next to the legendary Laker and Buss agrees that he was the ideal player to bring in:
“I completely concur with that because we had such a solid team that just needed that one player that fit perfectly with Kobe Bryant, who was so dominant and was complementary to the triangle system that was in place. It takes a unique individual to match up and check all the boxes that Lakers team needed. It really is remarkable that Pau’s arrival with the Lakers was seamless not only on the court, but off the court with his worldly views and his maturity and his basketball IQ. This team was waiting for him. It was the right place at the right time with the right person. It set history on its course.”
Things would have been completely different if the Lakers were never able to bring in Gasol, but it all turned out perfectly for all sides involved. Gasol brought the franchise exactly what it needed and now his jersey will deservedly hang in the rafters next to the rest of the legends.
Pau Gasol admits it’s tough to have Lakers jersey retired without Kobe Bryant present
The one unfortunate part of the upcoming ceremony of course, is that Pau’s teammate and the man he calls his brother, Kobe Bryant won’t be here to share in that moment. And Gasol admitted that it is tough to accept.
The Lakers legend said that his jersey is going in the rafters in large part because of Kobe and what he did to bring the best out of him. Gasol said it will be tough not to have him in the building, but there is no doubt his presence will still fill the building.
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