With the recent news of the Los Angeles Lakers’ plans to honor Jamaal Wilkes (52) and Shaquille O’Neal (34), I was left with the thought, “What about Pau? When he retires, regardless of whether the Lakers go on to win additional titles (which I believe they will), will his No. 16 one day hang beside the other Laker greats?” Upon discussing the idea with four other longtime NBA fans, the general consensus was Gasol has done enough to this point to receive serious consideration. To be fair, one guy (whom will remain nameless…don’t need all of LakersNation hunting him down for his initial blasphemy) wasn’t immediately in favor of the thought, but eventually came around to the idea upon being reminded of the circumstances surrounding the team when Gasol was added to the roster.
While the Lakers were technically in first place (26-11) in the Pacific Division, having been fueled by some inspired basketball by a very young Andrew Bynum, they were still far from a legitimate championship contending team. Not to mention, the fact that Bynum, as was so often the case, had just gone down with a dislocated knee cap. Ironically, it was against Gasol’s Memphis Grizzlies (Jan. 13th, 2008), although Gasol had nothing to do with the injury. Even though the move eventually turned out positively for both franchises, most folks around the NBA point to the Gasol for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol (with picks and cash) to be the first #MitchSlapping in Kupchak’s arsenal.
We all know what followed, as the Lakers went on a three-year Finals run, winning two of them from 2008-2010. I still say things could have been different during the 2008 Finals had Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza been healthy, but no need to rehash another endless argument. Point is, Gasol’s addition not only helped return the Lakers to greatness, but also assisted Kobe Bryant in ridding himself of the unfair label of having been a mere sidekick during the O’Neal years.
Quite frankly, Gasol is one of the more talented and multifaceted big men the NBA has seen over the last 25 years. His footwork is nearly impeccable, he can play with his back to the basket in the post, and can turn and face up an opponent with the best of them. The one knock against Gasol (some make) is his lack of girth and physical toughness. I am quick to remind people of the 18 point, 10 rebound, 2 block, 3+ assist (playoff) averages Gasol produced as the primary post option (in a secondary role) during the 3-year Finals run. We also cannot forget how Gasol out-dueled Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) during the 2009 Finals, and did the very same thing against Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics) in the 2010 Finals to the tune of 19 points, 12 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game during the series.
Regardless of whether you’re a “fan” of Gasol’s game, he will likely be a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. By the time his career is over, Gasol may have played in 4-5 Finals, winning at least two of them. In my eyes, his No. 16 should be mounted right alongside Bryant’s jersey (on the same night) once the two of them decide to walk away. The only debate at that point should be which, No. 8 or No. 24, should be next to Gasol’s jersey?