Pau Gasol came back to Staples Center as a member of the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, returning to the old stomping grounds where he and Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to three-straight NBA Finals appearances, the latter two of which resulted in titles.
Gasol averaged 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game during his seven seasons in Los Angeles, and will always be remembered for the way his acquisition completely quelled any desire Bryant had for the franchise to trade him.
When Bryant had both of his jerseys retired, one of the most common questions around the team was which player would be next to receive the same treatment.
Before Gasol’s Spurs played the Lakers, he told Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News that he hoped it would be him:
“It would be a huge honor without a doubt,” said Gasol. “We had some unbelievable years with a great team, top to bottom. It’s not something I think about, but if it ever happened, it would be a tremendous honor to join the Lakers greatest players that ever played. It would be huge.”
However, Gasol also understands that whether or not he has his jersey hung in the rafters isn’t up to him:
“That’s not up to me,” said Gasol when asked if he’s done enough to receive the honor. “I don’t think it’s up to any of the players that jerseys are hanging in the rafters. It’s not up to them to decide if they did enough or not. I’m happy I was able to be a key piece in winning championships for the Lakers, which is incredible enough and I was fortunate to be in that position.
“Everything that comes after it is something you have to welcome and appreciate,” Gasol continued. “It’s not something that I expect. It’s not something that I think I have done enough for. It would be an honor, and it would be a privilege. I’ll leave it at that.”
Gasol should have as good of a chance as anyone to receive the ‘honor’ he’s hoping for. Not only did he help lead the Lakers to two titles, but his distinguished career for Spain in international play and the Olympics all but guarantees Gasol will be a Hall-of-Famer.
In the past, entry into the Hall of Fame has been the Lakers’ criteria for jersey retirement. Given how glowingly everyone around the Lakers speaks of Gasol and his time in the purple and gold, it seems like a safe assumption that the team won’t be breaking that jersey retirement trend when he gets admitted.
And in a few years he’ll likely be back, maybe with Bryant in tow to introduce him, for his very own jersey retirement night.
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