The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most storied and historic franchises in all of sports. They have enjoyed tremendous ownership, a passionate fan-base, and some of the greatest players in NBA history, including some of the all-time great big men. Here, we will look at who we at the Lake Show Life agreed upon as the 10th greatest Laker ever, who has earned his place amongst the historic line of bigs, Pau Gasol.
Pau Gasol was acquired by the Lakers in February 2008, in a trade that drastically changed the landscape of not only the western conference, but of the NBA itself. The Lakers were already considered a playoff threat, with Kobe Bryant in his prime, Lamar Odom playing well, and a young Andrew Bynum coming into his own until the first of several devestating knee injuries occured. The Gasol trade caught everyone by surprise; rival execs, fans, and even Gasol’s soon to be team-mates. With Bynum expected back from injury for the playoffs, the Lakers were suddenly not just a post-season threat, but now had to be considered a serious title contendor. Gasol was the franchise player for the Memphis Grizzlies, but he had clearly shown being the focal point of a team’s offense was not his strong suit, and was much more comfortable in a supporting role, which he would soon thrive in playing with Bryant.
With the addition of Gasol as the number 2 guy in LA, the Lakers adavanced to 3 straight NBA Finals appearences, winning 2 of them. Kobe finally had the sidekick he’d been waiting for, and someone who happily embraced the sidekick role. He came into LA averaging 18.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, and 3 apg. , and maintained those numbers through the remainder of the season, making him the ideal beta dog to Bryant’s alpha.
What makes Gasol so great, and puts him on this top 10 list, is that throughout his career with the Lakers, he has been nothing short of the consumate professional, and team-mate that everyone associated with the Lakers has nothing but praise for. He is a legitimate threat from both inside and mid-range (his top of the key jumper must be respected), can rebound the ball, and is an under-rated passer. He does whatever is needed and demanded of him, and rarely, if ever, strays from the flow of the offense. Quite frankly, without Gasol, the 2009 and 2010 championships would not have been won.
While Gasol is clearly an all-time Laker great, whose number should (and likely will) be raised to the rafters some day, and a future hall of famer, he his not without his faults. He is often very passive, sometimes frustratingly so. He was practically man-handled by the tougher and more aggressive Kevin Garnett in the 2008 NBA Finals vs. the Boston Celtics. Gasol is not naturally aggressive, and more often than not has to be called out on his lack of aggression by both team-mates and coaches. He is more a finesse player, and often times becomes frustrated being roughed up by the more aggressive big men in the league.
The pros of Gasol clearly outweigh the cons. While he at times lacks aggression, one thing he never lacks is heart and determination. That, combined with his wide-varying skill set on the court, which is rarely seen in big men in the NBA, makes him the 10th greatest Laker of all time.