The Los Angeles Lakers are in a critical stretch of their schedule as they attempt to reach the postseason, but on Tuesday, one of the most important nights of the season arrived without having anything to do with what is happening on the court. With his original team (the Memphis Grizzlies) in town, the Lakers retired the No. 16 jersey of team legend Pau Gasol, who played six and a half seasons in Los Angeles and won two championships for the purple and gold.
A number of NBA luminaries were on hand for the event. Gasol's coach with the Lakers, Phil Jackson was in the building. Former teammate Jimmy Butler, who currently plays for the Miami Heat and has a home game tomorrow night, flew to Los Angeles to celebrate Gasol. Marc Gasol, Pau's brother who was part of the trade that got the elder Gasol to Los Angeles, was also in the building. As the Lakers raised the No. 16 jersey into the rafters, Gasol couldn't hold back tears from the court.
Pau Gasol can’t hold back the tears as his jersey is retired pic.twitter.com/IXvQiS2New— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) March 8, 2023
Sadly, one of Gasol's favorite teammates and the leader of those two Lakers championship teams was missing. Laker legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in 2020, but his family, whom Gasol has remained close with, was in attendance. On a night in which Gasol's jersey was raised next to Bryant's, he lamented the loss of his teammate and wished that he could have been there to celebrate with him.
"I love him. I wish he was here with Gigi. But I think he would be proud ... I love you, brother."#GraciasPau— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) March 8, 2023
The Lakers have retired only 14 numbers, which represent 13 players as both of Bryant's numbers were taken out of circulation. Considering their status as a 17-time champion, entering that club is one of the great honors an NBA player can receive. As of Tuesday, Gasol can officially say that no Laker will ever again wear his number, and it's an honor he earned as one of the greatest players in franchise history.