The Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to one of the franchise’s all-time great centers on Tuesday night.
The Lakers officially retired Pau Gasol’s No. 16 jersey in the rafters at Crypto.com Arena at halftime of their game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Gasol returned to his seats after the first quarter while carrying his daughter and received a huge standing ovation.
The Lakers then unveiled his jersey in the rafters right next to Kobe Bryant’s two jerseys at halftime.
Gasol was traded to the Lakers midway through the 2007-08 season by the Memphis Grizzlies, who reached a deal to land him on draft night after the Atlanta Hawks selected the 7-footer from Spain with the No. 3 pick overall in 2001.
Gasol spent the next six seasons in Los Angeles, where he and Bryant won back-to-back NBA titles in 2009 and 2010 and reached the Finals in three straight seasons.
Gasol earned three of his six All-Star nominations before leaving the Lakers in 2014 to end his career elsewhere. He averaged 17 points and 9.2 rebounds, scored over 20,000 points and over 11,000 rebounds in his 18 seasons in the league. Gasol was also nominated as a finalist for induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame later this year as well.
Pau Gasol reflects on his career and his friendship with Kobe Bryant
Gasol was extremely close to Bryant at a time while they played together in Los Angeles and remained friends until Bryant died in a helicopter crash in 2020. Kobe’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, who was on the pitch with Gasol on Tuesday night, even presented Gasol with the WNBA’s Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award earlier this year.
Gasol reflected on his relationship with Bryant ahead of Tuesday night’s game.
“When you’re around a player or someone of that caliber who demands excellence from himself and everyone else, I think that’s something you want to be,” Gasol told About Bryant. “What I tried to do was complement him, provide everything he needed and what the team needed at the time. I had to grow as a player to be better in order to ‘to be the second great player in our team. I put my mind, effort and heart into it to do it. I think looking back, three straight finals, it’s not easy to do.
Gasol also mentioned Bryant on the court after his jersey came up.
“I miss him so much, like many of us,” Gasol said. “I love him, I wish he was here with Gigi, really. But I think he would be proud.”
Although it took a few years, Gasol finally made it into the rafters, just as Bryant predicted after winning an Oscar in 2018.
“Pau, when he retires, he will have his number in the rafters next to mine”, Bryant said in 2018. “The reality is, I don’t win these championships without Pau. LA City doesn’t have these two championships without Pau Gasol… I’m really looking forward to the day he delivers his speech on center court in front of all the fans who have supported him over the years.”