After a long basketball playing career that included 19 years in the NBA, Pau Gasol has officially announced his retirement.
“I’m going to retire from professional basketball,” Gasol said. “It’s a difficult decision after so many years, but it’s a decision that I really thought over.”
Gasol made six All-Star Game appearances and won two championships in his NBA career. Before becoming the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, Gasol played for his hometown FC Barcelona team for three years, as he led them to a victory in the Spanish National Cup’s 2001 Final’s championship game and was ultimately named the MVP of the tournament.
Pau Gasol Made Immediate Impact With Lakers
After trading away Shaquille O’Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers struggled to get out of the first round of the playoffs for several years.
However, once they acquired Gasol in February 2008, the Lakers wound up making the NBA Finals that same year, but ultimately lost to the Boston Celtics in six games.
It didn’t take long for Gasol’s impact to be felt on the Lakers. In Gasol’s Laker debut on the road against the then-New Jersey Nets, Kobe Bryant struggled, scoring just six points on 3-of-13 shooting, but Gasol helped pick up the slack with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, 12 rebounds and four assists in their 105-90 victory.
“Pau Gasol brought hope and talent to the Lakers,” former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “The effect was immediate. His game put LA back into championship contention. He was also a gentleman and generous hero.”
Derek Fisher surprisingly led all scorers with 28 points in the game, as many expected this game to be a score-off between Bryant and Vince Carter.
Gasol proved to be exactly the piece Bryant was missing post the Shaq era in Los Angeles. Bryant and Gasol used to run the pick-and-roll to flawless execution, and both had a knack for finding each other in their spots out there on the floor, as both were comfortable finishing at the rim or hitting pull-up jump shots. Additionally, both spoke Spanish to each other out on the floor, leaving opposing defenders confused.
“It seems like we’ve been playing together for years instead of months,” Bryant said. Since the first time he stepped on the floor, we automatically had a great relationship and understanding of where we like to operate on the floor.”
Because of their great relationship, both of them were able to win two championships together, and now Gasol’s No. 16 will forever be retired by the legendary organization.
Modernizing The Big Man Position
During his tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies, Gasol established himself as one of the greatest scorers in the league at the big man position, but eventually began to embrace the role as a playmaking big as well.
At the time, it was rare for a guy playing at the center or power forward position to possess a mid-range jumpshot or playmaking skills out of the post, but Gasol embraced that skillset, as he ultimately helped the Grizzlies become a playoff team in the loaded Western Conference for several years.
Unfortunately, the Grizzlies struggled to replicate that success for a long period of time, which led them to trade Gasol to the Lakers.
Nowadays, you see modern day bigs possess many of the same skills Gasol once did, including reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Domantas Sabonis and others.