Pau Gasol’s jersey was officially retired by the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, his No. 16 taking its place right alongside longtime teammate Kobe Bryant’s No. 24.
The bond between Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020 at 41, and the big man from Spain was strong and the emotion shown for the 42-year-old Gasol during Tuesday night’s ceremony.
“I can’t go on without talking about the person and the face that I don’t see. The brother that elevated me, inspired me, challenged me to be a better player – just to be a better man overall,” Gasol said during the halftime ceremony as “Kobe” chants broke out among the crowd at Crytpo.com Arena.
“I miss him so much, like many of us do,” Gasol continued. “I love him. I wish he was here with (daughter) Gigi, I really do. But I think he’ll be proud. And he was looking forward to this moment.”
Gasol, the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft, was traded by Memphis to the Lakers on Feb. 1, 2008. He remained with Los Angeles through the end of the 2013-14 season, and along with Bryant he helped power the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Bryant was indeed looking forward to the day of Gasol’s jersey retirement.
“When he retires he will have his number in the rafters next to mine,” Bryant said in a clip from several years ago that the Lakers shared Tuesday night. “The reality is I don’t win those championships without Pau. The city of LA doesn’t have those two championships without Pau Gasol. We know that, everybody knows that.
“I really look forward to the day when he’s there giving his speech at center court, in front of all the fans who have supported him over the years. It’s going to be an awesome night.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pau Gasol honors Kobe Bryant at Lakers jersey retirement ceremony