Pau Gasol’s career ended where it began: on the far side of Spain, where he learned to love basketball.
Gasol, 41, announced his retirement from the sport at a press conference on Tuesday, ending a two-decade career traipsing through Memphis, Chicago, San Antonio, Milwaukee and Portland – but his seven seasons with the Lakers compare to I never reached greater heights when she won two championships.
Spanish prowess combined with feather touches and brutal competition helped propel the franchise back to the top of the NBA, winning titles in 2009 and 2010 during a run of three straight finals with Kobe Bryant. Gasol played overseas last season, but he fueled his NBA career with 19 seasons, six All-Star appearances, four All-NBA nods, and top-50 spots in career points and rebounds.
The Lakers will retire Gasol’s number 16 jersey, which no one has worn since Gasol left the franchise in 2014. The only question is time: for most players, the Lakers have waited until inductees into the Hall of Fame, but the team has retired the jerseys. Before that time for Shaquille O’Neill and Kobe Bryant.
Gasol’s retirement was held in Spanish, but he then tweeted: “Dear Basketball, thanks for everything.” During his press conference, he also thanked Bryant for teaching him how to be a winner.
The 7-footer similarly launched the Lakers into a victorious era when he was traded for them in the middle of the 2007–08 season: after falling in the first round the year before, the Lakers made it to the finals before falling to Boston. Over the next two seasons, they would beat Orlando and take revenge on Boston in the final. Gasol notably scraped a 19-point, 18-rebound double-double with two blocks in Game 7 of the 2010 final when the Lakers won back-to-back championships.
Time has not diminished the respect Gasol has in the Lakers’ organization. Gasol is still welcomed with open arms, with staff describing his class as one of the qualities that have made him a franchise favorite. Gasol’s brother, Mark, played for the Lakers last season, at which time rumors spread that the brothers were hoping they could play together in purple and gold.
Gasol became lifelong friends with Bryant and his family. After the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people, including Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Gasol gave his daughter Elisabeth the middle name “Gianna” in her honor.