The Los Angeles Lakers honored one of the franchise’s all-time great centers on Tuesday night.
The Lakers officially retired Pau Gasol’s No. 16 jersey into the rafters at Crypto.com Arena at halftime of their game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Gasol walked out 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 during halftime.
Gasol was traded to the Lakers midway through the 2007-08 season by the Memphis Grizzlies, who made a deal to land him on draft night after the Atlanta Hawks selected the 7-footer from Spain with the No. 3 overall pick 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 nods before he left the Lakers in 2014 to finish his career elsewhere. He averaged 17 points and 9.2 rebounds, and scored more than 20,000 points and had more than 11,000 rebounds in his 18 seasons in the league. Gasol was named a finalist to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame later this year, too.
Pau Gasol reflects on career, friendship with Kobe Bryant
Gasol was extremely close with Bryant both during their time playing together in Los Angeles and after until he died in 2020. Vanessa Bryant, who was on the court 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 before the game on Tuesday night.
“When you’re around a player or a person of that caliber that demands excellence of himself and everybody else, I think that’s something that you want to be around,” Gasol said of Bryant. “What I tried to do was compliment him, provide as much as he needed and the team needed at the time. I had to evolve as a player to be better in order to be that second great player on our team. I put my mind and effort and heart into it to do that. I think looking back, three straight Finals, it’s not easy to do.”
Gasol mentioned Bryant on the court after his jersey went up, too.
“I miss him so much, like many of us do,” Gasol said. “I love him, I wish he was here with Gigi, I really do. But I think he’ll be proud.”
While it took a few years, Gasol finally made it into the rafters just like 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 those championships without Pau. The city of LA doesn’t have those two championships without Pau Gasol … I really look forward to the day where he’s here giving his speech at center court in front of all the fans who have supported him over the years.”