Pau Gasol on Kobe’s Legacy

Arguably one of the best international players to grace the NBA, Pau Gasol has played with plenty of phenomenal players. However, none have been quite as influential as former L.A. Lakers teammate, Kobe Bryant – who if you hadn’t heard, is retiring at the end of the season.

Fittingly, Gasol was the player to introduce Bryant, as the future Hall of Famer stepped on-court against the Chicago Bulls for the final time. After the game, Pau was happy to talk about Bryant and the impact he’s had on the NBA, and himself as a player.

Pau on Kobe…

Q. How emotional was this type of game for you, and for him?

“Yeah, I mean we try to block the emotions out a little bit. But it was fun, it was special too to play against him again and to win it the last time. Because it’s not going to happen again, at least in an NBA game. So we might play some one-one-one pickup back in Barcelona, or in LA, or wherever we meet again. But not in this scenario”.

Pau and Kobe

Credit NBAE/Getty Images

Q. What is Kobe’s legacy?

“Where to start? His legacy is the guy with the championships, records, all the milestones that he accomplished. He’s just left his mark–he’s definitely left his mark.

He inspired a lot of young players; a lot of young players try to be like him, you know. He’s a hero, he’s an idol, the guy that they follow and that they try to do, do the things that Kobe does on the floor”.

Q: If you had to put all the guys you played with or against in a scale of competitiveness, where’s Kobe at on that scale?

“He’s at the top, the top of the list. He’s as competitive as it gets, and a guy that never likes to lose, always likes to prove that he’s better than you, and that he’s ready to compete and prove it, own up to it. He doesn’t just talk about it, he owns up to it and he competes as hard as possible. Huge, incredible competitor. One of a kind”.

Q: When you embraced Kobe at the end of the game, is there anything you shared with him?

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, we shared a few moments now, but … it’s the last one on an NBA floor. It’s special to share that moment, to have that bond that we have, and the respect and admiration and friendship.

It’s awesome, and I love it. I feel honoured that I have this type of relationship, that I earned his respect throughout the years and that we won a couple of championships together, which is pretty amazing”.

Q: Whose idea was it for you to introduce him before the game?

“The Bulls, and it didn’t come out of me. I don’t like to claim spotlight … It was suggested to me, and I was totally fine with it. I think they put a great video, a great intro together, and I was proud and honoured to be a part of it”.

Pau Kobe

Q: You mentioned how special it is playing against him this last time, is it better to win the last one against him?

“Without a question. It’s always better to win. It’s always better to win. And they have a lot of talent, but they’re a very young team and they’re obviously struggling this season. We need to win games from anywhere we can get them. So definitely special to win this one because of the meaning and also being his last game against us”.

Q: Can you remember a game when someone’s name was being chanted as much as Kobe’s was tonight?

“No, in LA it happens, it happens in some places. But this one was special. People wanted to see him more on the floor. I don’t know if it was the plan for him to go back in the fourth quarter. But the game got a little closer, he came in right away and pulled up from the three-point line. Mike (Dunleavy) fouled him and put him on the line. So you just have to admire his aggressiveness, how he approaches the game and continues to be himself regardless of everything in his 20th season.

Not many players in the history of this game have played 20 years the way he’s gone so hard, every single night”.

Q: Pau, what does it mean to you personally to help to augment Kobe’s legacy and be a part of his last two championships, to be a part of Kobe’s legacy?

Yeah, I mean it’s a huge honour. Proud that I was able to have the opportunity to contribute to his legacy and live those moments with him and the rest of the guys. We developed a nice relationship on and off the floor. Mainly I think off the floor, which I think is the most important because on the floor that’s going to go away, and off the floor, it’s what matters most to me.

So really, honoured to be a part of his legacy and have experienced the things that we went through as teammates, to the good times and also the bad times. Because he also, he always had my back and always tried to motivate me to be better and push me when I needed to be pushed. So I appreciated that as well.

Q: You talked about how young the Lakers are. How long do you think it will take them to become contenders again once Kobe leaves?

“That’s hard to say, isn’t it? I think they’ll be back once those players continue to develop. They have really good, talented players.

It just takes, maybe you sign a guy, you get a couple guys to come in and believe in what they’re building, and in a few years maybe they’ll be back at the top. But right now with Golden State, the way they’re playing, let’s see how long they can keep that up. But it looks like they have a good chance to have a good run here for a few years”.

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Luke Hatfield is the creator and editor of BouncyOrangeBall, with an extensive knowledge of the NBA and basketball in general.

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