Jamaal Wilkes, Jerry West, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Gail Goodrich, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and, of course, Kobe Bryant. They are the jerseys that are hanging at the top of the Staples Center, the birthplace of basketball in Los Angeles, the mecca of sports, a monumental construction where entertainment mixes with historical players. And, next to all of them, will be the Pau Gasol shirt, almost one of the greatest honors of an already epic career that has come to an end after 23 years as a professional, 19 of them in the best league in the world. . Six and a half in the Lakers, the franchise with which he conquered two rings, played three Finals, became an idol for the fans and wrote the best pages of an unforgettable resume.
Pau Gasol retires from basketball at the age of 41. Shams Charania, a longtime journalist for ., quickly put it on his Twitter at 5:48 p.m. At 18:16, the bomb announced: “The Lakers plan to retire the number 16 of Pau Gasol“. 33 minutes apart in which a person of absolute reliability, only comparable to that generated by Adrian Wojnarowski, has written some words that have caused some surprise, as well as a great fury, in the Spanish fan. American basketball, where those two journalists are the ones who turn rumors into official ones, one of the greatest honors a player can have is to see his jersey at the top of his court. And, in the Lakers, something like this is multiplied in a spectacular way because it is one of the largest markets, one of the most classic franchises, one of the most iconic teams. In other words: historical.
The debate and the importance of Kobe
There is always a constant in these cases, especially in an NBA that lives from constant debate, narrative and discourse. “What merits do you have to do for a specific team to remove your jersey?“The problem is this, a supine obviousness that sometimes is difficult to accept: one team is not the same as another. The Heat, a young franchise born in Florida in 1988, have practically all of their iconic players with the retired jersey: Alonzo Mourning, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Bosh also withdrew, when they had none, Michael Jordan, who never played there, as a tribute. The same goes for the Spurs, who came before the ABA but they have had most of their historical condensed in the 21st century and in the participants of their five rings (or some of them).
But of course, they are not the Lakers. In fact, no team is like the Lakers. Not even the Celtics, who have lost aura in recent decades and are holding out with their 17 titles on the throne, already shared, with the Angelenos. In the city of light, the paraphernalia, in the largest market, the famous and the merrymaking. The one in which Jerry Buss imposed, when he bought the franchise in 1979, a tradition that continues to this day: that of collecting stars on the track by accumulating them in the stands. In any other NBA franchise, Pau Gasol’s merits would have been more than enough to have his shirt on top. In any. However, the greatness of the Lakers caused this to be talked about only in whispers, as if saying it out loud would blow it away.
In the news, differential, Kobe Bryant has a lot to do with it. The escort, one of the best in history, tragically passed away with his daughter on January 26, 2020. But, before that, he said out loud that Pau’s shirt should be at the top of the Staples. A place where, in addition to those mentioned, is Chris Hearn’s microphone and a franchise that paid tribute in a different way to a string of great names that played when the entity was in Minneapolis, in the prehistory of the competition: John Kundla (coach), George Mikan (the NBA’s first giant and dominator), Clyde Lovellette, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen and Jim Pollard.
With Bryant’s influence or not, the reality is that Pau Gasol will be, depending on when Marc retires (who will be honored by the Grizzlies in the same way, something that was already announced when he left the team), the first Spaniard in history to have his shirt removed. The ceremony does not have a date yet, but it will surely be exciting and it will have, who knows, Vanessa Bryant, widow of a Kobe who will surely be remembered. An honor that elevates Pau, future Hall of Fame member, to the top. Even more than it already was. And, as in his career, he will be next to a Kobe who has two numbers (the ‘8’ and the ’24’) hanging in the Staples. The ’16’ will also be there. Pau Gasol will have his shirt removed. And it is not just any shirt: it has a shield that multiplies the merit of who has worn it. The greatest franchise, bestows the greatest honor, to the greatest Spanish player. Pau Gasol’s ’16’ will hang at the top of the Staples Center. Your shirt. The Los Angeles Lakers.