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The best stories appreciating Pau Gasol as he enters the Basketball Hall of Fame

There have been a lot of things written about Lakers legend Pau Gasol as he heads towards basketball immortality. Here are some of the best.

Lakers play Memphis Grizzlies in an NBA game at Arena in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2023. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Pau Gasol is one of my favorite Lakers ever. While Kobe Bryant was my favorite player during my high school years, as a white, 6’4 center with floppy hair, it was always Gasol I tried to emulate in pickup games (tried being the operative word, as I was not good at basketball).

But while my hoops career ending in high school is proof I wasn’t very successful at copying Gasol’s skills, maybe I can translate them to blogging. After all, Gasol’s best attribute was how he was a force multiplier for his teammate’s best abilities; his do-it-all, selfless offensive game allowing others to effortlessly flow off of him to maximize their own talents. Until Nikola Jokic, he was the best big man passer I’ve ever personally watched, creating high art every time he got the chance to survey the floor out of the high post.

So in deference to the Big Spaniard’s skillset, let me pass your valuable time to some other writers who can score with it: Here are my favorite Pau Gasol stories I’ve read so far — in no particular order, with some passages that stood out from each — in the lead-up to his Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement on Saturday night.

How Pau Gasol rode a finesse game to basketball’s greatest heights — Dan Devine, Yahoo Sports

Pau Gasol had grown up with the game; both of his parents played. When the Dream Team came to Barcelona, though? That’s when he fell in love with it.

It wasn’t because he wanted to emulate the rim-rattling dominance of the NBA’s greatest physical marvels. It was because of how artfully they all worked together. Because, as he’d tell Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, “I like beautiful things.”

And man, did he play like it.

Oral history: Inside a Lakers trade critics slammed that made Pau Gasol a Hall of Famer — Dan Woike and Brad Turner, L.A. Times

LAMAR ODOM: People used to say that Pau Gasol is soft and all that. How is he soft when he’s going at Kevin Garnett’s head or he was dunking on him? He was just finesse, extreme finesse and skilled. Always right up there with blocks and he always rebounded the ball, so I don’t know how you can say he’s soft. I guess because he makes it look easy.

The role Kobe Bryant and the Lakers played in Pau Gasol’s transformation — Dave McMenamin, ESPN

“When I was able to get to those points of aggressiveness, of physicality, of do-whatever-it-takes, I’m-going-to-go-through-you moments, and kind of put myself in that emotional state, that’s when I played my best,” Gasol said. “And obviously, what a bigger moment to do that? What a more needed moment than that, right?

“I remember that day thinking I’m going to do whatever. We’re not going to allow this team to beat us on our home court in Game 7. We’re going to win this championship. I don’t care how it is. I don’t care what I have to do. It’s kind of like that survival instinct of kill or get killed. And I was able to put myself into that killing mode of I’m just going to bite your head off, and I don’t care who you are, I don’t care anything.

“That’s how Kobe was on a gamely basis.”

Gasol’s eyes widen as he speaks about that 83-79 win over the Celtics. His nostrils flare as he talks about a night full of basketball so ugly that it became beautiful.

Gasol, the player, is back.

And he’s going to be remembered forever for it.

Pau Gasol didn’t make the Lakers great on his own. That’s what made him perfect — Darius Soriano, Silver Screen and Roll

Yeah, I included a story from my own outlet. Pau sometimes called his own number too. Sue me.

As Pau takes his rightful place in the Basketball Hall of Fame, the memories of his time with the Lakers overwhelm me. From his instant partnership with Kobe, to the vetoed trade and subsequent return to the team, to his last hurrah as the group transitioned from title contender to a team holding on trying to make one last run, I remember the competitiveness, skill, class, professionalism, and the dignity he carried himself with throughout it all.

Most of all, though, I remember Pau helping to bring this team back from the depths and restoring it to the heights of championship basketball. He didn’t do it on his own, but history has taught this Lakers fan that none of the great players did either. And that lesson is one I’m happy he was able to reinforce for me one more time.

Pau Gasol forges new NBA path for international prospects on his way to Hall of Fame — Shaun Powell,

While appearing at the Academy Awards in 2018 for his short story “Dear Basketball,” Bryant spoke up about Gasol’s importance to him and those Laker teams:

“The reality is, I don’t win those championships without Pau. The city of L.A. doesn’t have those two championships without Pau,” he said. “We know that. Everybody knows that.”

Along the way, Gasol shattered any lingering stereotypes of being a soft European player, an image that was reinforced in part by his professional and polite nature off the court.

“The perception of this tall, lanky guy, and how he plays the game, it may appear that way,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said not long after the first title. “But he has a knack of getting those 20 points and 10 rebounds, night in and night out. He’s a pretty amazing athlete. The tenacity is there. He wants to win and it’s evident since he came on this team.”

Pau Gasol’s exclusive interview with the L.A. Times before Hall of Fame induction — Brad Turner, L.A. Times

What role did Kobe Bryant play in your ascension to reach such a high level of play?

“A critical role, I think a very unique role. He’s definitely one of the players that elevated me like no other. He pushed me to be not just one of the better power forwards in the league, but to become the best out there on a nightly basis during our time and our run together. I was very fortunate to be able to join the Lakers when I did, to have Kob as a teammate, as a mentor, as an older brother. I’m going to miss him tremendously during this day, as I do on a regular basis. But obviously when you get this type of honor, and when a person has played such a big role in you accomplishing it, you would love for him to be there.”

What does it mean to have Vanessa Bryant and her daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, still involved in your life?

“It’s a blessing. It means the world to me to be able to have such a close relationship, a family really relationship with Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka and Capri and spend time together, be a family really, to be an uncle to those girls, to be a brother to Vanessa. It’s very special. Very special. Something that is dear to my heart, to my family’s heart, as well. Obviously Vanessa is the godmother to our daughter, Elisabet Gianna. That’s forever. That’s forever for me. That’s for life. That true, a unique, type of love that obviously was enhanced through Kobe.”

Pau on 2023 HoF Class with Parker, Dirk, and Pop: “Incredible accomplishment for European basketball” —

“This class is an incredible accomplishment for European basketball and for international basketball as well. The game has grown so much since we first started playing in the NBA. We can be very proud of having taken the international game to a higher level and very proud of seeing how current players are taking it to the next level. It’s very special to share this moment with Dirk and Tony. It’s remarkable, something that was unthinkable not too long ago. It’s beautiful to share the message that things are possible, things do change and improve, things are exciting, and allow any kid, boy or girl, to dream that they can do it too. That’s the exciting part for me.”

Tony Parker: ‘If Pau Gasol had not been born, we would have won more gold medals’ — HoopsHype

When asked during a videoconference meeting with international media attended by the Spanish Press Agency (EFE) how he remembered the clashes against Spain in the past, Tony Parker stressed that “if Pau Gasol had not been born, we would have won more gold medals.” “We have had a great rivalry with Spain. I always say thank you Pau for being there and pushing me and the French team to be better,” the LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne’s majority shareholder added.

Editor’s Note: The Spurs might have won more championships, too. I’m glad we live in the timeline with Pau Gasol, personally.

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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