After the Los Angeles Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004 many people questioned whether Kobe Bryant would be able to win another championship without his partner in crime.
After a few years of not making the playoffs and losing in the first round, in the 2007-08 season the Lakers showed promise with Bryant playing the best basketball of his career, Lamar Odom providing a unique skillset and a center in Andrew Bynum that looked to be one of the best young players in the league.
Before the trade deadline, the Lakers completed a trade to acquire All-Star power forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies, and that ended up being the final piece to the championship puzzle as while they lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals they went on to win championships in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010.
Gasol was a big part of those championship teams, but received a lot of criticism for being soft and was often the scapegoat when the team didn’t perform as well as they should’ve.
In a recent interview with Shams Charania of The Vertical, Odom came to Gasol’s defense, saying he didn’t get enough credit and that he was one of the easiest players to play with:
“After we got Pau [Gasol in 2008], it was easy for us. I just kept that in mind. It was a wrap after we got Pau. His first game was amazing, and he didn’t even know the triangle. Playing with him, playing off of him, he was easy to play with. He knows the game so well, and he’s so talented. Right hand, left hand, right hook, left hook, back hook, fadeaway.
“He’s another competitor. People don’t give him enough credit for that. He competes.”
Bryant is also always very complimentary of Gasol, consistently calling him one of his favorite teammates that he’s ever played with and realizing that he may not have won his final two championships without Gasol.
Gasol currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs, and has been named to six All-Star teams and four All-NBA teams in his 16-year Hall of Fame career. While he isn’t the player he used to be, he remains one of the most skilled bigs in the NBA.