SALT LAKE CITY – Pau Gasol was announced as a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, less than three weeks before he will get his jersey retired by the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers normally wait until a player is inducted into the hall of fame before retiring their jersey number but Friday’s announcement and his induction later this year were a mere formality.
“As a kid growing up in Spain, you’re not aware of many things in life,” Gasol said Friday after being announced as a finalist on Friday at Vivint Arena before he served as a coach in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend. “I definitely had a dream of playing in the NBA. That 1992 Olympic (Dream Team) that came to Barcelona touched kids’ lives of my generation. I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are incredible. I want to do that.’ As Kobe said at one point, ‘It’s really about the journey.’ It’s not the recognition, which are an amazing honor that come along when you do things very, very well for a long time when you love what you do. I’m privileged to have played the game so long at a high level with amazing people that taught me so much.”
When asked how he would like to be remembered as a player, Gasol said, “I played the right way. I played hard and competed and played to win. I was a player that made the right decisions on the court and tried to make my teammates better. I didn’t care about scoring points. I just cared about making the right play and giving myself and the team the best chance to win.”
“Pau Gasol is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished players of his generation,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement following Gasol’s retirement in 2021. “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.”
Gasol enabled Kobe Bryant and the Lakers advance to three NBA Finals and win back-to-back championships following Gasol’s shocking trade to the Lakers 10 years ago this month.
In the three years after the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 (following three straight championships and four Finals appearances), the Lakers missed the playoffs in 2005 for just the second time since 1976 and were eliminated in the first round in 2006 and 2007. The Lakers’ trade for Gasol made them a championship team again. The tandem of Gasol and Bryant led the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals and back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. Yes, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza all played huge roles but Bryant and the Lakers don’t win those two championships without Gasol.
On March 7 the Lakers will retire Gasol’s jersey alongside Bryant’s and later this month, Gasol will join Bryant in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“When Pau retires, he will have his number in the rafters next to mine,” Bryant said in 2018. “The reality is I don’t win those championships without Pau. The city of L.A. doesn’t have those two championships without Pau Gasol. We know that. Everyone knows that. I really look forward to the day when he’s giving his speech at center court in front of all the fans who have supported him over the years. It’s going to be an awesome night.”