In the mecca of Hollywood, where fame is often a fleeting and capricious illusion, rebelling against oblivion and standing the test of time separates stars who fade overnight from those who truly succeed. reach eternity.
Pau Gasol does not -yet- have a star on the Walk of Fame, but the Spanish basketball legend is since Tuesday an immortal legend of the Los Angeles Lakers, whoHis jersey and number 16 have been retired in tribute to the two-time NBA champion with those of purple and gold.
“To the city of Los Angeles, to the Laker Nation: I love you dearly, I love you forever. Thank you for making me feel so special.“, said a very moved Gasol, who could not avoid tears at various times of the night.
The most glamorous dynasty in the NBA – and the most successful with the Boston Celtics – rose to honor a Gasol who formed a memorable allianceon and off the track, with Kobe Bryant in the rings 2009 and 2010.
Starting today, anyone looking at the roof of the Crypto.com Arena (the new name of the Staples Center) You’ll see Gasol’s 16 along with his “brother” Kobe’s 8 and 24 and alongside other Lakers heroes such as ‘Magic’ Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Shaquille O’Neal (34) or Jerry West (44).
To understand the magnitude of this feat, it suffices to see that the Lakers They only removed the numbers of 12 players -including that of Pau- and that the Spaniard is the first non-American to achieve this.
A dream come true and the memory of Kobe
With a black suit and wearing his two champion rings on his fingers, Gasol captured the eyes of all the fans as soon as he entered the pavilion between the first and second quarters of the game between the Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies (the power forward’s other big team during his extraordinary NBA career).
With his daughter in his arms, Gasol thanked, unable to avoid tears, the huge ovation of a stand in which each fan had received a t-shirt with the name and the Catalan number.
Applause were repeated several times with the recognition videos for Gasol (especially a very special one from Coach Phil Jackson).
But the tribute as such took place at half-time. The event began with a video from Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, who introduced Gasol, praising his human quality “as a partner, as a man and as a friend”.
Then the stadium screens showed an interview of Bryant in 2018, with Efe’s correspondent in Los Angeles, Antonio Martín, in which the guard adamantly demanded that Gasol’s number be retired by the Lakers.
“There is no debate. When he retires he will have his number at the top of the flag. The reality is that we wouldn’t have won those two titles without him. We know that, we all know that” , Kobe said then. .
Once the jersey was discovered at the top of the stadium, Gasol, “overwhelmed” by the tribute and totally moved, he thanked everyone present but also recalled “the person and the face” that he unfortunately did not see in the stadium. “I miss you so much, really,” he said between chants of “Kobe, Kobe” in the clubhouse.
Gasol said that “not in a million years” an evening like this could be imagined and recalled Kobe’s ‘Mamba mentality’: “Be the best you can be.”
The six-time All-Star also remembered that legendary seventh game against the Celtics in the 2010 Finals. “It feels like yesterday… What a night, he’ll never forget it and I don’t think you will either,” he said.
Gasol thanked his family, friends and teammates (“you deserve a piece of this jersey”, he said) and assured that he will continue his career off the pitch, with the Gasol Foundation, “making of this world a healthier place”.
very special guests
In addition to his impressive talent and fierce competitive spiritthe Lakers hold a very special place for Gasol for his kindness, his elegance, his humility and his charitable work.
In this culminating moment of his career, the man from Sant Boi was accompanied by his wife and children, his parents and his brothers -including Marc Gasol-, and by unforgettable ‘golden juniors’ teammates like Juan Carlos NavarroFelipe Reyes or Juan Carlos Calderon.
But also the companions of his years of wine were present and roses in the Lakers like Derek Fisher or Metta Sandiford-Artest and franchise references like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Who couldn’t be was LeBron James, who is recovering from injury.
Besides the stars, he especially highlighted the affection and recognition of a Crypto.com Arena practically complete to pay homage to a Gasol whose name and number will forever remain in the skies of the Lakers and the Olympus of the NBA.
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