Of all the notable teammates Kobe Bryant played with during his illustrious 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, it is difficult to name one he was closer to than Pau Gasol.
Bryant had been in the midst of perhaps the most frustrating period of his career on the court prior to Gasol’s arrival. Although Bryant was at the top of his game consistently putting together one historic scoring performance after another, the lackluster supporting cast around him prevented the Lakers from becoming a bonafide title contender.
Los Angeles was finally able to provide some help in the form of a budding, young superstar in Gasol after pulling off a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2007-08 NBA season. It seems he went into the situation well aware of his new role on the team.
Gasol said that he was adamant about letting Bryant know that he was there to provide support in any fashion as a complementary option, via ESPN:
“First of all, I wanted him to know I was his partner and that I wasn’t there to take any spotlight away from him. It wasn’t going to be like, ‘Who’s the best player on the team? It was, you’re the best player. This is your team. I’m here to help you and this team win and I’m going to do whatever I need to in order to accomplish that.’
“I was just trying to establish our partnership and he set the tone from the very beginning. He said, ‘Welcome to the team. I’m excited to have you. Let’s go win a championship.’ Kobe never sugarcoated anything. It was always straight to the point, direct and that was it. He just wanted to make sure I knew that from him the moment that I landed and joined the team.”
Bryant’s recollection of clicking with Gasol right off the bat has been well-documented and this was evident by the immediate resurgence they would spark in Los Angeles after paving the way to three straight trips to the NBA Finals that back-to-back wins during their latter runs.
More importantly, their chemistry on the court ultimately translated off of it as well with the pair becoming close friends.
With Bryant now gone, Gasol is left with countless, precious memories that they shared during their time with the Lakers. He can take solace in the fact that he was able to serve as the perfect partner to help solidify his legacy.
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