Dave McMenaminESPN staff writer4 minutes to read
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant’s perfect complement, Pau Gasol, gets the best possible praise from his former team: Los Angeles Lakers retired his jersey.
Gasol said before the Lakers’ 112-103 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. “But tonight, it really exceeded any dream or expectation I had because it means so much. And obviously, with Kobe there, it adds something meaningful and powerful, sad and happy, painful and exhilarating.”
“It’s a lot of things.”
It was a full-circle kind of night for Gasol, who was honored by the Lakers on a night they were playing the team he traded to Los Angeles. His younger brother Mark, who was part of the trade going the other way from Los Angeles to Memphis, was in attendance. to boot.
A black veil was lowered during the halftime ceremony, revealing Gasol’s No. 16 laying in the rafters right next to Bryant’s No. 8 and 24.
Gasol addressed the crowd in center court during halftime between the second and third quarters, surrounded by his parents, siblings, wife and children as well as Lakers Governor Jenny Buss, Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka and Vanessa Bryant. , which is her first public appearance at the Crypto.com Arena since her late husband’s memorial service.
“I miss him so much,” Gasol said when asked about Bryant. “There’s nothing I can do about it other than love his family. That’s how I deal with it.”
The Lakers reached three consecutive NBA Finals once Gasol arrived in February 2008, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 over the Orlando Magic and 2010 over longtime rivals, the Boston Celtics.
“Kobe greets you and says, ‘Let’s go over there and win us a ring,'” Gasol recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m OK.'”
They won two, and Gasol wore both on Tuesday night — one on each hand.
After a video tribute during the second quarter, Gasol was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd, patting his chest with one hand while holding his two-year-old daughter, Elisabeth Gianna, in the other. His daughter was named in honor of Bryant’s daughter Gianna, who was one of the victims of the January 2020 helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of her father and seven others.
Gasol, who was the second Spanish player to play in the NBA and the first to appear in the Finals, received many of his teammates and sons of the Spanish national team, including Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes and Juancho Hernangomez.
The game was attended by a host of former Lakers players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Derek Fisher, Meta Sandiford-Artest, Jordan Farmer, James Worthy and longtime coach Gary Vitti. Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, who along with Gasol played for the Chicago Bulls, was also involved in the game.
Phil Jackson, who coached Gasol for four of the six seasons he played in Los Angeles, also made rare appearances on the court, watching the game from a stand.
Jackson, Fischer, Sandiford-Artist, and Sasha Vujacic also recorded video messages for Jasol that were shown on the video screen during the halftime timeout.
Gasol was the 12th player in franchise history to have his number honored, joining a long line of legendary big men from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O’Neal.
“I think the common denominator is that I did something of value for the team to help the team win,” said Gasol. “I wouldn’t dare compare myself to these great players. I have a lot of respect and honor. Part of the reason I’m there is because I helped the team a lot to win those championships. [If] We didn’t win those championships, and we’re not going to sit here.”
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