Before Kobe Bryant died in January, he made it very clear whose jersey he wanted to see hanging next to his in the rafters at Staples Center: Pau Gasol’s. In an interview with Antonio Martín of EFE, Bryant said that there’s “no debate” as to whether or not Gasol’s jersey should be retired because of how important he was to the Lakers’ two championship teams in 2009 and 2010.
Whether it’s because of Bryant’s sudden death or Gasol’s age, the discussion surrounding Gasol’s jersey retirement has been given new life, and during a recent interview with Omar Raja of ESPN, Gasol was asked if he anticipates that his jersey will be retired by the Lakers:
“Not really. I don’t really. Obviously I’ve heard about it, people talk about it, people are very supportive. I was talking with Kobe, I think there was a clip of an interview where he (said I should).”
Raja showed Gasol that clip, and while holding back tears, Gasol talked about what it meant for him to hear his late friend Bryant talk about him in such a flattering way:
“Happy and appreciative... We’ll see. But it’s definitely special to see how much he acknowledged me and appreciated me. And even when I watched the re-run for the first time, probably a month ago, of the game 7 of the 2010 Finals, I didn’t hear his speech, so I didn’t hear his words, how he said ‘hey, where’s the Spaniard?’ and ‘I can’t say enough about how much he’s done, or how we’ll he’s played, an incredible player.’ I didn’t hear any of that, so it was extremely emotional for me to see that, and to appreciate those moments. It’s unfortunate what has happened, but it is what it is. But he’ll be always present with me, and with all of us.”
Every video of Bryant must be extremely difficult for Gasol to watch, but that video is especially heartbreaking because there’s a part where Bryant says he’s looking forward to seeing Gasol’s jersey retirement ceremony — small things like that are a cruel reminder that Bryant is actually gone.
Hopefully, the Lakers do decide to retire Gasol’s jersey, if only to honor the friendship he and Bryant had during the seven seasons they spent together, and to fulfill Bryant’s wish.