Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Hours before the ceremony in his honor by the Lakers, Pau Gasol had warned that he was having a hard time managing his emotions. “I hope I can have some control to enjoy it first and then to be able to express [con el micrófono] what I want to express,” he told reporters.
Gasol was right. The 42-year-old Spanish giant spent his time wiping away tears during one of the most special nights for him and his family. The first time was with a video summarizing his accomplishments in Los Angeles, which was preceded by a standing ovation from the fans.
He rose from his seat at court level to say hello, with his little daughter Elisabet in his arms.
Pau Gasol’s number 16 was officially retired by the Lakers, a franchise he helped win two NBA championships for seven seasons in that uniform. The ceremony held at halftime of the game between Los Angeles and Memphis was magnificent.
The only thing missing from a perfect night at the Lakers’ home was Gasol’s teammate who propelled him to sporting greatness: Kobe Bryant.
“I want to talk about the person and the face that I don’t see. The brother who lifted me up, inspired me and challenged me to be better as a player and as a man in general,” Gasol said. during his speech at halftime of the game as the crowd raised a chorus of “Kobe, Kobe!”
“I miss him so much,” Gasol added. “I love him and I wish I was here with Gigi… I love you brother.”
Vanessa Bryant was there. A few minutes before, through the screens of the Crypto Arena, she herself introduced another special video, one in which Kobe predicted that Gasol’s jersey would one day hang next to his.
Gasol’s jersey was unveiled next to Kobe’s No. 24, who also has his No. 8 retired. The Catalan, who had his parents, wife and brothers behind his back, broke down once again.
The absence of Kobe, who died more than three years ago, was compensated by the strength of his presence in the mind -and the heart- of the public.
Gasol, with his typical nobility, thanked everyone, including the media, and closed his speech with a powerful personal commitment: “I will continue putting my mind to impacting others, making a difference, inspiring, helping others , in making this world one that is healthier in different ways. I love them all. Thank you”.
The night was round for the franchise of the 17 NBA titles. The Lakers, urgent to win to continue in the fight to get into the playoffs, beat the Grizzlies 112-103 led by Anthony Davis, who had 30 points and 22 rebounds. In the absence of the injured LeBron James, Davis is playing his best basketball since he came to LA
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