After over two decades of playing professional basketball, former Los Angeles Lakers great Pau Gasol officially announced his retirement from the game.
Gasol is best known for his time with the Lakers when he and Kobe Bryant led the team to back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers are expected to retire Gasol’s No. 16 jersey, a fitting gesture considering what he meant to the city and the franchise.
Newcomer Russell Westbrook is hoping to etch his name in Laker history by bringing another title to his hometown, but on the heels of Gasol’s announcement, he revealed a surprising fact.
“I’ll tell you guys an interesting fact that nobody actually knows about me,” Westbrook said. “Very few people know this. Pau [Gasol] was actually my favorite player growing up before like Kobe. Because I just liked how he played the game. I feel like he played the game the right way. He played the right way. He could pass it, he could shoot it, he could score.
“To me, I just liked the way he played the game at his size. And it was kind of someboy I always kind of liked, I wouldn’t say model my game after, but like I liked the way he played the game and always played the right way. So got some little fun facts.”
Alongside Gasol, Westbrook rattled off his other favorite players growing up. “Him, Rasheed Wallace and then Kobe. Those were like my three, my guys.”
Gasol certainly embodied team basketball because of how unselfish he was, but more so than that he was incredibly skilled for a big man and would have thrived in today’s NBA. The Spaniard is beloved in L.A. and it will be a momentous occasion to see his jersey hung in Staples Center when the time comes.
Russell Westbrook discusses Mamba Mentality
Westbrook is oftentimes regarded as the player in the league who most embodies Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” and the star opened up about what it means to him. “Yeah, I think I’m not one game, but when you have a, at least for myself, a lot of people try to I would say nowadays, a lot of people try to put it on other guys ‘you have this Mamba Mentality, Mamba Mentality,” Westbrook said.
“And I just honestly don’t see it in any other players and people because when guys don’t take the night off, when a guy has to take criticism, has a lot of pressure and a lot of things that he has to uphold and play at another level, it’s a different type of, it’s different. Like if you’re playing in a place where it’s not, nobody really cares to know if you win or lose, the mentality is easy to do that, it’s easy to come out and sometimes play well sometimes not. But Kobe embodied that and I’m pretty sure he got it from somewhere else as well that he competed every single night regardless of what time, where at, and that’s something that I continuously do and try to do each time I step on the floor.”
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