While Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal became one of the greatest duos of all-time in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history, that of Bryant and Pau Gasol was similarly successful and arguably more fun.
Beyond winning two championships and appearing in three NBA Finals together, Gasol and Bryant were best friends off the court. Since the tragic death of Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven other on Jan. 26, Gasol has shown what his friendship with Bryant meant to him.
Gasol and his wife moved back to L.A. to be close to Vanessa Bryant and the rest of the family so that they could help in any way she wanted. He also has spent a lot of time recounting memories of Bryant in their days playing together and the years since.
On the court, the two developed an unbelievable chemistry, and it started with communicating in Spanish. Bryant began speaking it and Gasol believes it translated to gaining an edge on the court, via “Highlights with Omar Raja”:
“Right away from the first game he started speaking Spanish. On our coverages, on our plays. It was great. It was something that I obviously didn’t expect at the beginning, even though I knew that he spoke really good Italian because he spent quite a bit of time in Italy when his dad played there when he was young. But then being married to Vanessa, she speaks Spanish very well, obviously he picked up some stuff. He was great.
“We did speak quite a bit of Spanish, especially during our first years, so that the opponents couldn’t understand. And they would point it out, they were like, ‘What are you guys talking about?’ It was pretty funny. It was fun. It created that bond and that relationship from the get-go, and he set the tone.”
Bryant was fluent in Italian before he got to the NBA, and with his wife being a fluent Spanish speaker, the transition between languages was easy. His ability to speak Spanish undoubtedly helped Gasol feel more comfortable in his transition to the Lakers.
Speaking Spanish to one another on the court is just another hilarious Bryant and Gasol story, as the two had a bond that Bryant did not share with a lot of teammates during his 20-year career.
While it must be painful for Gasol, him sharing stories about Bryant and their time together is certainly helpful towards the healing process, both for him, and for the fans.