Pau Gasol and the late Kobe Bryant played together with the Los Angeles Lakers for parts of seven seasons, winning back-to-back titles in the process.
The two shared a bond on and off the court. Almost immediately after Gasol joined Kobe in Los Angeles midway through the 2007-08 season, this relationship extended to Bryant’s family.
It’s also what makes Tuesday evening bittersweet for the six-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer.
Gasol is set to have his jersey retired as the Lakers host his former Memphis Grizzlies team in Southern California. It comes a little over three years after Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were among those killed in a fiery helicopter accident in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasis.
In talking about this ahead of his jersey retirement, Gasol paid homage to Bryant. He was also pretty darn emotional from the podium.
“I miss him a lot. There’s nothing I can do about it other than love his family. That’s how I deal with it,” Pau Gasol on the loss of Kobe Bryant.
Gasol and Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, have remained close since the all-time Lakers great died just over three years ago. During February’s NBA All-Star Game, he was given the Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award by Vanessa.
Pau Gasol talks about life after Kobe Bryant
There’s certainly a lot of emotion here. Once Gasol’s jersey number is elevated to the rafters inside Crypto.com Arena Tuesday night, the reality of the moment will hit.
“Just trying to little by little take it in and just digest and comprehend that my number, my jersey will be up there with those great amazing players and names in the history of our game. And obviously being next to Kobe, seeing his name, still emotional,” Gasol said.
Gasol had more words about his relationship with Kobe Bryant, his retirement ceremony and the like.
The Lakers earned back-to-back NBA titles with Gasol and Bryant leading the charge. Their first championship came back in 2008-09 after defeating the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals.
Los Angeles then repeated the following season via a seven-game series win over the Boston Celtics in the Finals. It’s still considered one of the better Finals matchups in Association history. Bryant and Gasol combined to average 47.2 points, 19.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists in that series.
Now, less than a dozen years later, Gasol will be honored with Kobe Bryant. But much like when the late-great NBA legend was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame, it will come with a somber backdrop.