Pau Gasol will likely see his jersey hanging in the rafters of Staples Center one day, but as of now, he is a member of the Chicago Bulls and made his return to Staples Center for the first time since joining the Bulls in free agency.
The Los Angeles Lakers planned a tribute for Gasol before the game, but longtime teammate and friend Kobe Bryant also met with Pau and according to Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters, Gasol appreciated the gesture:
Pau Gasol said he didn't expect Kobe to come "at all." Called it an "incredible gesture on his part to want to come & say hello."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 30, 2015
Gasol also thanked the organization and the Laker fans for their appreciation according to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:
Pau was "emotional" to be appreciated by Lakers. Said it took him time to transition to game. "Thankful to the organization and the fans."
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) January 30, 2015
Gasol spent over six seasons with the Lakers, making three appearances in the NBA Finals and being a crucial piece of the back-to-back championship teams in 2009 and 2010. Though he was the subject of numerous trade rumors throughout his time with the Lakers, he always handled everything with class.
For the first time in his career, Gasol was named a starter for the All-Star Game and he had a solid showing in his return to Staples Center. He had 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four blocks, but the Lakers ended up with a 123-118 win in double overtime. Gasol deserved everything the Lakers and fans showered him with before the game and he will go down as one of the best Lakers of this generation.[divide]
Lakers Honor Pau Gasol At Staples Center