The renowned Black Mamba, famously known for his aversion to sleep, held a notable aversion to slumber. In a stirring Hall of Fame induction speech that spanned 20 minutes, Pau Gasol, the former six-time All-Star power forward/center, divulged the likely reason behind his esteemed Hall of Fame status. His remarkable journey led to a defining moment on February 1st, 2008 – a date forever etched in his legacy. This was the pivotal night when he transitioned from the Memphis Grizzlies to the illustrious Los Angeles Lakers.
Gasol, the towering seven-footer, delved into the immediate aftermath of that momentous occasion. His narrative intertwined with a conversation he shared with his most influential teammate during his championship-filled career: the celebrated Hall of Fame shooting guard, Kobe Bryant. Although Gasol did not sport his uniform for that particular game, the Lakers triumphed even in his absence, securing a 103-91 victory. This contest marked his debut for the Los Angeles team.
A mere four days later, on February 5th, Gasol showcased his prowess in a resounding 105-90 triumph over the New Jersey Nets. His debut performance was nothing short of extraordinary, as he contributed 24 points by converting 10 of his 15 field goal attempts. Additionally, he asserted his dominance on the boards, securing 12 rebounds. The versatile player also exhibited his playmaking skills by distributing four assists and displaying his defensive prowess with a single steal.
In his eloquent address, Gasol transported the audience back to the heart of his basketball journey, unveiling the intricate layers of his storied career. His recounting of the night he embarked on his Lakers expedition brought to light the undeniable camaraderie and synergy that defined his partnership with Kobe Bryant. Their intertwined paths created a lasting legacy that continues to inspire basketball enthusiasts worldwide.
“February 1st, 2008. [Memphis Grizzlies GM] Chris Wallace calls me to his office and gives me the news that I was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers,” Gasol said — and promptly found himself compelled to take an applause break.
“That obviously changed my life and my career. I know some people in the league were upset about the trade. But it happened. And that’s why I got to know the person who elevated my game like no other, who taught me what it took to win at the highest level, who showed me how hard you had to work and the mentality you needed to have in order to be the best, the commitment yo had to make, what it meant and what it took to be a leader… Kobe.” Another applause break.
“That night I joined the team in D.C. and I got to the hotel after midnight,” Gasol continued. “He was texting me saying, ‘Hey I want to come by your room and I want to welcome you, I want to say hello, I want to welcome you to the team.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, it’s going to be late, it’s going to be past 1 a.m., are you sure you don’t want to wait for tomorrow?’ He said, ‘No, no, it’s not going to be so late. I’m coming over.'”
“The team had a game [against the Washington Wizards the] next day at noon,” Gasol continued. So he just wanted to make sure that right away, first hand, I got the message. He said, ‘Welcome to the team, I’m happy you’re here, now let’s go win a championship together.’ So I said, ‘All right I’m in, man, I’m in. Have a good night.’ That was it. No crap. Straight to the chase. I wouldn’t be here without you brother.”
This poignant account encapsulates the essence of triumph over adversity, the emergence of stars, and the forging of unbreakable bonds within the realm of sports. Pau Gasol’s journey from Memphis to Los Angeles stands as a testament to the resilience and determination that propel athletes to greatness.