Coming from Spain and impacting the league at the level that he did, Pau Gasol deserves all the credit in the world for his contributions to the NBA. Especially the Los Angeles Lakers, who have recently decided to retire Pau’s jersey for helping the Lakers add 2 championships to their trophy cabinet.
Pau was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 3rd pick of the 2001 draft and they immediately traded hik to the Memphis Grizzlies. During that time, the NBA had great Power Forwards who were breaking out of their shell. Tim Duncan was already a champion, Kevin Garnett was carrying the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chris Webber and Sacramento were battling the Lakers.
Internationally, Dirk Nowitzki who played the same position for the Dallas Mavericks had prompted the Memphis Grizzlies to go for Pau Gasol. With his height he can switch between Center and Power Forward. Gasol immediately started his career flying as he put up averages of 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 blocks per game. He became the first international player to win the Rookie of the Year award.
In 2003-04, he helped the Grizzlies reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. But they got bounced out in the first round. He made his 1st All-Star appearance in 2005-06 season. Despite Gasol’s best attempts to lead the franchise to a deep playoff runs, superior teams like the Spurs and the Mavericks would get in the way of his success. Furthermore, the Grizzlies weren’t surrounding him with the right pieces.
But this was also a wakeup call for the Grizzlies as they realized that Gasol is not suited to be the no. 1 option in the team. There were teams who wanted Gasol in their roster. The Lakers in particular were pushing for Pau to team up with Kobe. So in the 2007-08 trade deadline, the Grizzlies let go of Pau Gasol to the Lakers in return for his brother Marc Gasol, who was just entering the league.
This trade turned the Lakers franchise around and Kobe finally had a legitimate All-Star to play with. Gasol also let out a sigh of relief as he now was playing in a franchise with a goal. The results were beyond expectations as he propelled the Lakers to the Finals in his first season. They would lose to the Boston Celtics in 6 games but the future was bright. The next 3 seasons were the best in Gasol’s career. He won 2 championships, made 3 All-Star appearances and made the All-NBA team 3 times.
Beating his competition
That’s just what was in his resume and something we already know. But in the playoffs, he battled against, Tim Dunacn, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudamire, Kenyon Martin and Kevin Garnett. In one-on-one matchups, if Pau would have lost against them then the Lakers would have never won the 2 championships. It was Pau’s effort on both sides of the floor that helped Kobe grab his prize. For these 3 seasons, Gasol was uttered in the same breath as Duncan, Garnett and Nowitzki.
End of his career
After the championships, Gasol started to suffer some minor injuries which forced him to sit out some games. The Lakers tried to make a superteam with Howard and Nash into the mix but that didn’t work out as well. Plus it did not help that Kobe suffered his Achilles injury. So quietly the Spaniard got traded to the Chicago Bulls in the 2014 off-season. He still had some energy left on his tank, making 2 more All-Star teams but age was catching upto him.
The following seasons, he made the playoffs but never again did he reach the summit he once was a part of and he slowly retired from the NBA in the 2019-20 season. But he played professionally in the Spanish League and won the championship for Barcelona. In Olympics he played and helped Spain bag some medals along the way.
All in all, Gasol had a Hall of Fame worthy career and during his prime he was one of the best power forwards the game has ever seen. He has an impressive resume yet fans are quick to undermine him. When the Lakers declared that they would be retiring Gasol’s jersey, it raised some eyebrows but he deserves it regardless of how everyone feels. Kobe Bryant had once said that Gasol’s jersey needs to be retired by the Lakers and his wish has finally been answered!