Pau Gasol arrived at his hotel in Washington, DC at 1:30 am in February of 2008 to join his new team: The Los Angeles Lakers. The team was on a road trip, but Gasol wanted to join the team he’d just been traded to from Memphis as quickly as possible.
Kobe Bryant was in the middle of an MVP season and finally had his first All-Star teammate to contend for a championship with since Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. Kobe was so excited that he told Gasol he would come to his hotel room to welcome him even though Gasol said he wouldn’t be in until 1:30.
Bryant gave him a quick welcome to the team, but within seconds of meeting him. he finished his greeting off by saying it was time to get a championship. Gasol rose to the challenge and was integral in the Lakers back-to-back championships with three Finals appearances, which is exactly why his No. 16 jersey will hang in the rafters beside Kobe’s jerseys forever immortalized in Laker lore.
With Gasol recently announcing his retirement, here are the top five moments from his Lakers career:
5. Highest Scoring Performance With Lakers
Gasol made a statement in his first playoff game with the Lakers as he would go on to have his highest-scoring performance while donning the purple and gold against current Laker Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets. Gasol showed off his arsenal of moves as he was scoring any way he wanted.
The Big Spaniard was employing graceful footwork to work the ball inside and perform graceful post moves to deliver tough finishes. He also showed off his versatility through his shooting touch, vicious dunks, jump hooks and guard-like passing and handles to run the floor on the way to 36 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in his Lakers playoff debut.
4. The Big Man Shows His Finesse
Many forget, but Gasol was one of the NBA’s original unicorns.
This moment is the perfect example of that as Gasol grabs the rebound, then begins sprinting as the 7-footer runs the floor at the speed of a 6-footer before dribbling the ball between his legs and delivering a smooth no-look dish to another current Laker in Trevor Ariza.
Pau Gasol has officially RETIRED 🤝
— Overtime (@overtime) October 5, 2021
3. Pau Shows Tenacity in Game 7
The Lakers’ loss to the rival Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals was a tough pill to swallow, but destiny would have it that the franchises met for a rematch in the 2010 NBA Finals. This time the Lakers were the defending champs and the competitive series had gone all the way to a Game 7 at Staples Center.
The Lakers were making a fourth-quarter comeback and began to start pulling away as Gasol went up hanging and maneuvering in mid-air as the ball hit the front of the rim with the big man’s signature soft touch and bounced in to put the Lakers up by six with 1:30 to go. Not only this, but the shot was full of contact as Gasol jumped into the bodies of Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett while still managing to get the shot up over them helping the Lakers go back-to-back.
— SHOWTIMEFORUM (@showtime_forum) October 5, 2021
2. Clutch Heroics in the Playoffs
The Lakers had some of the toughest runs in playoff history as they had to go up against great teams even in the first round, like The Oklahoma City Thunder’s trio of future superstars and MVPs, which included Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the reigning youngest scoring champion in league history Kevin Durant. The Thunder showed they were on the upswing as they took the Lakers all the way to a Game 6.
However, it was time for the defending champs to show the young superstars that they weren’t ready to relinquish their Western Conference throne quite yet. Kobe went up for a game-winner, but as the ball careened off the rim it was corralled by Gasol, who went up for the putback with 0.5 seconds left, showing off his killer mentality for a series-winning shot.
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) October 5, 2021
1. The Signature Kobe-Pau Play For the 2009 Championship
This is the highlight that will always stand out in the hearts and minds of Lakers fans when it comes to Pau Gasol. The moment he became a part of Lakers history forever was when he proved he could be the perfect co-star to Bryant in helping the Lakers get back to the promised land after Shaq’s departure.
This is the signature play of the Kobe-Gasol duo that led to consecutive Finals MVPs for Kobe, something he often credited Gasol for and something only four other players in NBA history have done. This play shows the chemistry between Kobe and Pau, the same chemistry and friendship that shows even as Gasol continues to be in touch with the Bryant family; something that showed on the court and off as the two spoke Spanish with each other further deepening their bond.
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 🗣️ (@_Talkin_NBA) October 5, 2021
The reality is that without Gasol the Lakers don’t win those two championships. The history of the franchise and also Kobe Bryant’s legacy would look a lot different without Gasol.
Gasol’s jersey retirement will be a special night and a well-deserved one that will bring back all of the glorious memories and lessons from the Kobe-Pau era.
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