On Tuesday, 41-year-old Pau Gasol held a press conference in which he announced his retirement from basketball. Gasol spent last season with FC Barcelona in Spain after a lengthy NBA career with five teams across nearly two decades, the most prominent of those stints being with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gasol helped the Lakers to two titles during his seven seasons in Southern California. After playing a vital role in both titles, the Lakers are going to retire Gasol’s jersey, a move that was inevitable once the Spaniard finally announced his retirement.
Team governor Jeanie Buss confirmed as much on Twitter:
It was never a matter of IF we will retire #16 but WHEN. Congratulations on your retirement @paugasol #StayTuned #LakersLove https://t.co/CMJ5BJBl1O— Jeanie Buss (@JeanieBuss) October 5, 2021
NBA commissioner Adam Silver also congratulated Gasol on his retirement:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s statement regarding Pau Gasol’s retirement pic.twitter.com/xNaDyOSLVy— NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2021
Considering how important he was to the Lakers, particularly in one of the franchise’s most memorable wins in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, hanging Gasol’s jersey in the rafters alongside fellow Laker greats was both an easy call and — as our own Sabreena Merchant wrote last year — the right decision. Good on the Lakers for leaving no doubt.
A hero in Los Angeles. A hoops legend around the world.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 5, 2021
Congrats on your retirement, Pau. pic.twitter.com/ODzWHXgq94
After spending the first seven years of his career in Memphis, Gasol joined the Lakers in the middle of the 2007-08 season and hit the grounding running. A perfect big man for Phil Jackson’s triangle defense, Gasol meshed not only within the offense but alongside the team’s superstar in Kobe Bryant.
The partnership between the two ran deep on the court over the next six years, but their bond off the court went far deeper not just with Kobe, but the entire Bryant family in the wake of his passing.
Pau Gasol: I want to make a special mention to Kobe Bryant. I'd very much like him to be here but life is sometimes very unfair. He taught me how to be a better leader, better competitor, what it meant to be a winner. pic.twitter.com/hnSRLwzr05— Eurohoops (@Eurohoopsnet) October 5, 2021
Together, Bryant and Gasol led the Lakers to back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 and three straight Finals appearances in total. While Bryant rightfully earned his plaudits for his brilliance throughout those title runs, it was Gasol that served as the engine that kept the Lakers humming along during those seasons. Those titles don’t happen without his addition.
Everything about this clip is just perfect. Kobe and Pau forever. pic.twitter.com/Z7PIiz4nEf— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) October 5, 2021
While his tenure in Los Angeles was not long enough to place himself high up on the franchise’s statistical leaderboards, his impact was as important as nearly any Lakers legend. His beautiful and unique skillset paired with his IQ and size created a one-of-a-kind player perfectly suited to be a Laker, and to complement Bryant.
Gasol’s arrival to Los Angeles immediately thrust the Lakers into the title picture as the team made the 2008 NBA Finals four months after acquiring him at midseason. Each of the following two title-winning seasons featured plenty of Gasol highlights and memorable moments, including one of the Spaniard’s only game-winning baskets in his career in Game 6 of the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
The defining series of his Lakers — and perhaps NBA — career, though, came in the Finals that same season in a rematch with the Boston Celtics. After being the focus of frustrations following the 2008 loss, Gasol forever silenced those critics with a superb series.
He capped it all off with one of his biggest shots of his career in one of the biggest games of his career in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, helping the Lakers close out Boston with a big basket in the closing minutes of the game.
Gasol’s Lakers legacy will be tied to those two titles and his role in bringing championships back to Los Angeles once again, but his impact with the franchise and as well as off-the-court is even deeper.
On the court, Gasol served as a bright spot through some of the early dark days of the Lakers rebuild,
Away from the hardwood, though, Gasol made just as big of an impact in helping out various charitable organizations, most of those focused on children’s health and education across Los Angeles.
For all of those reasons and plenty more, Gasol will go down as a legend and all-time great within the Lakers franchise. That the team will recognize him as such by retiring his jersey is the smart and correct call, and a well-deserved honor for one of the best of his generation.
This story will continue to be updated with more information and reaction. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.