Kobe’s prediction comes true: “Pau will have his number next to mine”
The guard, sadly deceased in 2020, predicted in 2018, at the Oscars, that the Lakers would withdraw his ‘brother’’s number 16.
On 7 March 2023, Spanish basketball will be celebrating an historic night as the Los Angeles Lakers will retire Pau Gasol’s number 16 jersey. It will be the first time that a Spanish basketball player is given an honour usually reserved only for the NBA’s great stars. To be honoured by the Los Angeles franchise, 17-time champions, is worth double because Pau will share the skies of the old Staples Center with legends like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal... and Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, who died in a fatal helicopter accident in January 2020 at just 41 years old, had his ceremony in 2017. In it, the Lakers raised jerseys with the two numbers that he used during his 20 seasons with the team, No.8 (1996-2006 ) and No.24 (2006-16), with which he lifted five Larry O’Brien Championship trophies, two of them with his brother Pau, whom he also envisaged having his number withdrawn by the Angelenos one day.
So much so that he made it public, without mincing words and without fear of being wrong, in 2018. During the 90th edition of the Oscars, in which he won the award for best animated short film with Dear Basketball.
“When Pau retires, he will have his number in the rafters next to mine… I don’t win those championships without Pau… I really look forward to the day when he’s giving his speech at center court… It’s going to be an awesome night”, he predicted.
Sadly, he will not be there to hug Gasol, who quit basketball on 5 October last year after winning the Endesa League with Barcelona and two years after leaving the NBA for good due to a foot injury that prevented him from enjoying a little more of an American adventure that lasted 18 seasons in five different franchises.
Among them, the Memphis Grizzlies, in which he debuted in the North American League and from which he traveled to California. Those from Tennessee will be the rivals of the Lakers on 7 March and will be the next to withdraw the number of another Spaniard who Pau knows well - the No.33 worn by his younger brother Marc when he will also leave basketball for good.