The much-anticipated day is finally here for Lakers fans as Pau Gasol will see his jersey lifted into the rafters alongside his fellow franchise greats, including former teammate Kobe Bryant. It’s a day that will certainly be filled with even more emotions than is standard on a day as ceremonious as a jersey retirement.
Gasol’s name is etched into Laker lore not just because he helped the team win a pair of titles, but because he did so against the Celtics, specifically. His role in those titles, his playstyle, and his indelible personality made him a fan favorite and will make Tuesday an unforgettable night.
Leading up to his retirement ceremony, there have been plenty of stories about Pau, his time in Los Angeles and his career as a whole. Here’s a look at some of the notable ones.
Mark Medina of NBA.com spoke with a number of former and current Lakers, ranging from Pau Gasol, Luke Walton and Metta Sandiford-Artest to Mitch Kupchak and Gary Vitti to discuss Pau’s time as a Laker, including his acquisition:
When we signed Pau, I wasn’t sure we were going to win. But I knew we had the potential to win because I knew how talented he was. I don’t think he ever would’ve gotten the accolades that he received as a player if he stayed in the small market like he did in Memphis. He would’ve been a great player. But I’m not sure they would’ve won a championship. But he was the perfect addition at the time for Kobe.
As will be a common theme on the night, Dave McMenamin of ESPN wrote about Pau and how Kobe Bryant helped transform his career.
“It’s impossible [to separate],” Gasol said, wiping away tears on that night in late January. “It’s inevitable. I don’t know how. ... My number goes up there, in big reason, because of him.
“And also how he made me better, how he made us better, how he led us in those runs and the effect that he had. And then obviously not having him here with us, it’s tough.”
While Gasol’s on-court production will receive just honors tonight, his work away from the court deserves recognition, too, with Kyle Goon of the OC Register doing such.
For as towering as Gasol’s basketball achievements are, humanity was always part of the package – and perhaps the most indispensable factor about him. The jersey will hang in part because of that, but it’s impossible to fully appreciate without seeing it up close and personal.
On Monday, after spending two hours conducting one-on-one interviews with Spanish media members, Gasol strode into the purple-and-gold decked gym of the Lafayette Recreation Center, a 2-mile shot from the Lakers’ home court. He rested his huge palms on the shoulders and heads of three-dozen third-grade children who stared up at him in wonder, their minds going blank at the sight of a real-life gentle giant.
In speaking with Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports, Pau talked plenty about his relationship with Kobe, but also called Tuesday one of the greatest moments of his life.
“Highlight of my career? I think it’s the highlight of my life, this moment that we’re about to experience,” Gasol told FOX Sports on Monday at a Gasol Foundation event to reduce childhood obesity. “Having my jersey retired and receiving this honor and being with that group of people and incredible achievers, legends, it’s something I could’ve never imagined.”
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