Mamba Mentality and Gasol Grit: Why Kobe and Pau are forever linked
PAU GASOLE HAIR now combed short and neat. Reasonable. Shades of gray are visible on the sides and contrast with brown waves at the top. He looks in every way the husband and father of two he became in the days after the game.
At first glance, the 42-year-old version of Gasol could even easily pass for a medical professional, albeit a ridiculously tall 7ft 1in. After all, this was the area he would have pursued if not for basketball.
He is brilliant. Ready. Speaks several languages well. Confident but calm.
On this late January night, as a guest at the Los Angeles Lakers’ annual all-VIP-access event, Gasol appears to be in a world far from his days of post-up pirouettes, wild rebounds, triangle offense triumphs , Wild Mane is an athletic Spaniard who has dominated for six seasons with the franchise.
“What are you thinking?” asks Lakers host Bill McDonald, who hosts the event, which sees current and former players take part in a panel on a stage set on the floor of the Crypto.com Arena. “What are you really doing these days?”
Gorgeous in a tattered gray track coat, grey-green pants, a starched white shirt and equally starched white sneakers, Gasol rambles about what life is like for a former NBA player.
In addition to being a family man, he is a global ambassador for FIBA, the international basketball federation. He maintains a working relationship with the Lakers as an ambassador.
“And an investor,” he adds, putting more than $225 million into the job, which he received in salary from 18 seasons in the league. “Invest in companies, usually in health and wellness, in sports.”
The conversation began with McDonald lobbying requests from former Gazol teammate Sasha Vuyachich and Slava Medvedenko, who was given two replacement championship rings after auctioning rings he earned as Shaquille O’Neal’s understudy to raise money for his family. house in Ukraine.
Toward the end of the performance, Lakers Governor Jeanie Bass takes the stage to remind the audience of some exciting news. Gasol’s number 16 will retire on March 7 when Los Angeles welcomes the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that traded him to the Lakers 15 years ago and installed him in a long line of legendary Los Angeles big men. He achieved immediate success and changed his game. The kind and caring big man became a fierce and uncompromising rival on the biggest sports scene.
As Bass speaks, Gasol’s gaze rests on the rafters, where his kit will soon be next to the numbers 8 and 24 of Kobe Bryant, his teammate, his brother, his Germano.
His eyes soften.
“Just trying to slowly process it, just digest it and understand that my number, my jersey will be there with these great amazing players and names in the history of our game,” Gasol told Sportzshala. “And obviously being around Kobe, seeing his name, is still thrilled.
“And I know that this will be a trigger for me … So these two factors together are just a cool cocktail.”
The Lakers used introduce a rule that they will only remove a player’s number after he has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It made sense. If they removed the number of each key member of the Larry O’Brien trophy collection lined up along the window of Bass’s office, they would eventually run out of numbers for future players to choose from.
They made an exception for O’Neal in 2013, speeding up the award in the hope that longtime Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who was ill, would see it. Bass died about six weeks before O’Neal’s No. 34 celebration. O’Neal’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place three years later.
They also sped up Bryant’s move by waiting two seasons after his brilliant 60-point finish to retire both of his numbers during the December 2017 ceremony.
And thank God for that, as Bryant felt proud and nostalgic for five championships and two decades with the franchise along with his family and 18,997 eternally grateful Lakers fans.
By the time he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in May 2021, his widow Vanessa accepted the honor for him some 16 months after the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Bryant, their daughter Gigi and seven others.
Gasol’s retirement comes less than a month after the NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, when he was announced as a Hall of Fame finalist for the class of 2023. A day later, he was awarded the WNBA Advocacy by Kobe and Gigi Bryant. Vanessa’s award on center court during the All-Star break.
Just as Gasol and Bryant were a nearly perfect match on the court, having combined three consecutive finals and two titles together, they remain inextricably linked now that they are apart.
“This is impossible [to separate]Gasol said, wiping away tears that night in late January. – It’s unavoidable. I do not know how. … My number is growing there, for a big reason, because of him.
“And also how he made me better, how he made us better, how he led us in these races and what effect he had. And then, obviously, his absence from here with us is hard.”
TRADE WHICH brought Gasol to Los Angeles in 2008.
“I honestly believe that if this was leaked, there would be teams in the league trying to get their hands on it,” Bass told Sportzshala.
Gasol, who was 27 years old at the time, earned Rookie of the Year honors in his seventh season in the NBA and once at the Memphis All-Star Game. But he was available after the Grizzlies’ three playoff games with Gasol ended in a first-round tie.
“I remember something was written or there was a rumor that he might be available, but it wasn’t mainstream,” Mitch Kupchak, then general manager of the Lakers and now general manager of the Charlotte Hornets, told Sportzshala. “So yes, I called [the Grizzlies] and you can tell when there is real interest and when there is not.”
It was real.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace then wanted to rejuvenate his team and get rid of future salary obligations at the behest of then-team owner Michael Heisley.
“One of the things we heard is that the guy, the owner, wanted to sell the team and they didn’t go anywhere,” Kupchak said. “They didn’t have a very good season. Maybe they will lose some money, I don’t know. So one of the first things we did with Chris was: “We can go two ways: we can give you players to add to Pau [salary] number, or if you prefer, we have a big expiring contract with Kwame Brown, right? And we can go in that direction.
“I didn’t ask him what they were trying to achieve, I just gave them two options and he called back and said, ‘Hey, let’s work on the Kwame Brown option.’
The Lakers were only eight months behind Bryant’s public trade demand that he would rather “play Pluto” than wear the purple and gold suit again, and weeks before Andrew Bynum suffered a luxating patella that threatened to derail the Lakers’ season. They worked to organize the trade quickly and creatively.
It will be Brown, rookie Javaris Crittenton, two first-round picks, $3 million in cash and a draft right to Poe’s younger brother Marc Gasol to complete the deal.
But the salary numbers didn’t exactly match, so the Lakers had to get creative. Aaron McKie, relegated and volunteering as a coach at his alma mater, Temple University, after playing 24 games in the previous two seasons.
“We were missing a small amount, but there was no way to make it work,” Kupchak said. “We just didn’t have more players to add.”
So he called McKie’s agent with an offer.
“I said, ‘Look, the league will let us sign Aaron on a season contract and we’ll send him in a trade and he’ll have to report back to Memphis… Would he do that?’ And I forgot how much money it was, I don’t know, $600,000, $800,000 for three or four months, right?”
McKie agreed. The trade is over. And the league, which is now a 24/7 news cycle of endless trading rumors and incremental negotiations updates, was shocked.
“Chris didn’t want this,” Kupchak said. “We both knew that if it came out, it wasn’t good. It just complicates things, right?
“After the fact, of course, there were a lot of people saying things like, ‘If we knew, we would…’ But that could be sour grapes too, right?”
Kupchak was delighted with the acquisition of Gasol. But he didn’t want to hurt Wallace in the process.
“It was considered a very lopsided deal at the time, and I felt uncomfortable,” Kupchak explained. “I mean, obviously, being on the side that caught Poe, I was pleased, but you don’t want your colleagues to ever get squashed.
“There were a lot of negative objections, but when a year or two later, all of a sudden, you had Marc Gasol, an All-Star starting center, the deal didn’t look as lopsided as it could have been. first month or two.
UNTIL THE BENZEL CANNOT Lest tears come out when thinking of Bryant that January night, there was a very different look in his eyes the night he played the most important game of his NBA career in this building.
And it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t call it the best game of their NBA career.
Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics.
The rivalry has resumed. Line header. Devastation or euphoria.
Gasol worked head-to-head with Kevin Garnett, one of the fiercest rivals of his or any generation, for 42 grueling minutes.
Kupchak certainly doesn’t forget Gasol’s 19 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and two blocks almost 13 years later.
“Pau’s favorite story? Well, I don’t know if this is history, but the seventh game,” Kupchak said. “Everyone played incredibly hard and passionate, but Pau seemed possessed to me.
“Some players, you don’t know how they will react. Will they match the physical form of the other team or will they be one step behind? And I just remember that game.”
It crashed into Gasol’s mind…