It was a full-circle type of night for Pau Gasol, who was honored by the Lakers on a night they were playing the team that traded him to Los Angeles, the Memphis Grizzlies.
A black veil was lowered during a halftime ceremony, revealing Gasol’s Number 16 placed in the rafters directly beside Kobe Bryant’s Numbers 8 and 24.
Gasol addressed the crowd at center court during the break between the second and third quarters, flanked by his parents, brothers, wife, and children as well as Lakers governor Jeanie Buss, Lakers vice president of basketball operations, and general manager Rob Pelinka, and Vanessa Bryant, making her first public appearance at since her late husband’s memorial service.
“I miss him a lot,” Gasol said when asked about Bryant. “There’s nothing I can do about it but to love his family. That’s how I deal with it.”
A video of Kobe Bryant at the Academy Awards in 2018 espousing Gasol’s case to be honored by the Lakers.
“There’s no debate,” Bryant said in the video. “Pau, when he retires, he will have his number in the rafters next to mine. The reality is, I don’t win those champs without Pau. The city of L.A. doesn’t have those two championships without Pau. We know that. Everybody knows that. And I 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. And so, it’s going to be an awesome night.”
The Lakers made it to three straight NBA Finals as soon as Gasol arrived in February 2008, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 over the Orlando Magic and 2010 over their longtime rivals, the Boston Celtics.
Gasol becomes the 12th player in the franchise history to have his number honored, joining a long line of legendary big men from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O’Neal.