One of the biggest turning points in the career of Kobe Bryant came in the middle of the 2007-08 season when the Los Angeles Lakers swung a trade for talented big man Pau Gasol. The two were a perfect fit together and made three straight NBA Finals trips, winning two championships.
From the moment Gasol joined the Lakers, he and Bryant looked as if they had been playing together for years. The trade itself came as a big shock around the league as many didn’t even realize Gasol was a player available for trade.
However, the idea of Kobe and Pau playing together is something the two had discussed prior to the season. Gasol recently spoke to Tania Ganguli and Brad Turner of the L.A. Times about the first time the two met in the summer of 2007.
Gasol revealed the two spoke about playing together, but he figured there was no way for that to happen:
For much of his career Pau Gasol went back to his native Spain during the NBA offseason. In the summer of 2007, he was in the gym of a Barcelona hotel when Kobe Bryant wandered in.
“What are you doing here?” Bryant asked.
“I work out here,” Gasol said.
They chatted about their situations and mused about how wonderful it would be if somehow they could play together. “Obviously in my mind, I’m thinking there’s no way I can get traded and go to L.A.,” Gasol said. “Because in my mind I’m thinking best player for best player.”
As it turned out, the Lakers were able to swing a deal for Gasol in what many consider one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. L.A. sent Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol, and two first-round picks to Memphis. Aside from Marc, who would eventually turn into one of the league’s best centers years later, nothing else of note went to the Grizzlies.
It’s also worth noting that the two met in a gym. Bryant is one of the most maniacal workers in NBA history and seeing Gasol putting in work during the summer surely piqued his interest in addition to their conversations.
Ultimately the two would develop a great connection both on and off the court and it is truly amazing to find out that what many saw as a surprise in teaming the two up, was actually something the two had hoped for.