In their time together, Bryant and Gasol would make three consecutive NBA Finals, winning two of them in 2009 and 2010. Bryant and Gasol became another great guard-big man duo to come out of Lakers history.
Off the court, Bryant and Gasol formed a brotherhood that would last a lifetime. They quickly became great friends and it was that friendship that allowed them to push each other to be better on the court. By the time Gasol left the Lakers, he and Bryant’s bond was unbreakable.
Recently, Gasol shared the story of the first time he and Bryant met in person following his trade to the Lakers and what he gathered from that interaction, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN:
“It was very early and it was right away… when I joined the team in Washington D.C. after my physical in L.A. The team was on the road, I joined the team, and I wasn’t going to play. They had an afternoon game the next day on Sunday, I was not going to play that game. I didn’t have a chance to practice or do anything. And Kobe had been texting me from the moment that I got traded and when I arrived to Washington D.C., he wanted to stop by my room and kind of talk to me and welcome me to the team. I told him like, ‘Hey, it’s okay, it’s going to be late like 1:30 or so, you don’t have to. We can wait until tomorrow if you want.’ And he was like, ‘No, no, no, no, I’m coming.’ So he came… obviously I was happily surprised and he told me, ‘Hey, I’m happy that you’re here, I’m very excited, it’s great, but now let’s go win a championship.’ So from the very beginning, he was really trying to send a message of what it was going to be like and what he was about and the kind of level of mindset I had to be at. Losing and not winning games in the playoffs… like that goes away. Here, we’re going to go for a championship and that was really great and unique and incredible for me from his part to show me what type of leader he was.”
This story is just another in the long collection of stories that show the type of leader Bryant was. However, it is a little extra special knowing that it was for Gasol and the relationship that formed from meetings like this.
When Bryant tragically passed away on Jan. 26, Gasol was unsurprisingly heartbroken and even moved back to Los Angeles to offer support to the Bryant family.
It’s this first meeting in that Washington D.C. hotel room that created this lifelong bond.