Pau Gasol, the former Lakers great who formed a bond with Kobe Bryant on and off the court, has retired from professional basketball. Gasol announced the decision Tuesday.
The Lakers will retire Gasol’s No. 16 jersey.
Gasol’s unique combination of height, skill and basketball smarts won him admirers from likely and unlikely places.
“Very few people know this. Pau was actually my favorite player growing up, before Kobe. Because I just liked how he played the game. I felt like he played the game the right way,” All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook said after Lakers practice Tuesday.
Gasol, 41, played 18 seasons in the NBA, including seven with the Lakers, with whom he won a pair of NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. The team acquired Gasol in a trade in 2008 with the Memphis Grizzlies, sending back a package of players that included his younger brother, Marc, who became one of the NBA’s top centers.
The deal injected life into Bryant’s second act with the Lakers, pushing the team into immediate contention. At the mention of Bryant’s name Tuesday during his announcement, Gasol struggled to speak as he was briefly overcome with emotion.
“It’s a difficult decision after so many years,” Gasol said of retirement at a news conference, “but it’s a decision that I really thought over.”
During his time with the Lakers, Gasol averaged 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 blocks. During his career, he was a six-time All-Star and a four-time All-NBA player. He was the 2002 NBA rookie of the year, the first non-American to win that honor.
In addition to the Grizzlies and the Lakers, Gasol played for Chicago, San Antonio and Milwaukee. He last competed in the NBA on March 10, 2019, a stress fracture in his left foot derailing his NBA career.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel remembered the buzz surrounding Gasol before he was drafted into the league in 2001 as the No. 3 overall selection.
“I remember Rick Pitino going to Spain when we were considering drafting him, coming back thinking that we really want to get him in Boston when I was out there. That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” Vogel said. “Full circle of the beginning. I don’t know if there is a single memory. But I just think the size that they played with, you had to deal with Kobe, then you had [Andrew] Bynum and Pau out there too.”
It’s not dissimilar to the Lakers’ approach in 2020, when Vogel led the team to its first championship since Bryant and Gasol won in 2010.
“Pau Gasol is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished players of his generation. A two-time NBA champion, six-time NBA All-Star, three-time Olympic medalist and world champion, Pau inspired countless fans through his remarkable skill and passion for the game,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “But what sets Pau apart is his tireless commitment to giving back to his native Spain and other communities around the world, which he continues to make a priority. We congratulate Pau on an outstanding career and thank him for being such a dedicated ambassador for our league.”
Gasol recovered from injuries to compete abroad last season for Barcelona, culminating his comeback with another appearance for the Spanish national team during the Tokyo Olympics. While his impact on the court had seriously diminished, his mere presence was enough.
“I worked my butt off to do it. And I felt like it was worth the effort, it was worth the risk. And I just felt like I deserved to finish at this stage,” Gasol said in Tokyo. “I like doing extraordinary things, you know? And I felt like this was something that it was worth working for and fighting for.”
Who’s in, who’s out
Vogel said LeBron James and Westbrook will not play in Wednesday afternoon’s exhibition against the Suns in Phoenix, making it the second consecutive preseason game the All-Stars have been held out.
Vogel said Anthony Davis will play against the Suns after he was on the court only in the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at Staples Center while Carmelo Anthony will play after sitting out Sunday.
Vogel said one of his two centers, DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard, will not play against the Suns and the other will sit at Golden State on Friday.
Vogel said, “I’m not sure which one yet,” and that his plan is to “probably stagger those guys in these next two games.”
Trevor Ariza missed another practice because of a sore right foot/ankle. He has not participated in a practice since the team’s first formal workout. … During a scrimmage period of practice open to the media, Vogel had James, Davis and Westbrook paired with Anthony and Malik Monk. He said he has been trying to keep Davis, James and Westbrook together as much as possible while mixing up the lineups around them.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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