Prior to the latest 2008-2010 run by the Lakers, the main stalwarts of the Lakers 4 titles appearances were Shaq and Kobe. Shaq had his number raised into the rafters last season, and the only debate over Kobe’s number being retired is should it be #8 or #24 or both? Now the newest Lakers squad that made the NBA Finals three consecutive years, resulting in two titles was lead by the trio of Kobe, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol. While Lamar Odom is certainly one of the most versatile players in NBA history, its tough to make an argument he should have his jersey retired. Put it this way, if Derek Fisher isn’t going to have his jersey retired, there’s no way Odom will.
That leaves Pau Gasol. His impact to the Lakers was immediate, as they had been suffering first round exits prior to his arrival. The numbers he has put up have never been as flashy as Kobe’s, but he has been the ideal sidekick to go alongside Bryant. He is deadly efficient in the post, and one of, if not the best, passing big men in the league. Aside from last season, which was injury plagued and he was forced to play out of position to acquiesce Dwight, he has been a consistent scorer averaging above 18 points per game, and a rebounding machine averaging over 9.6 rebounds in each of his full seasons with the Lakers excluding last season, where even through all the injuries he snagged 8.6 rebounds.
The knocks against Pau having his number retired are simple. He has only been with the Lakers for five and a half seasons, which would be raised to 6.5 if he plays out the entire season in purple and gold next year. A lot of his best years went to Memphis, although he saw none of the playoff success over there. Another mark is that the Lakers only retire jerseys of those inducted into the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Shaq who will certainly be a first ballot HoFer once he is eligible. Seriously, take a look at the list of those who have had their numbers retired.
#44 Jerry West
#13 Wilt Chamberlain
#22 Elgin Baylor
#25 Gail Goodrich
#32 Magic Johnson
#33 Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
#34 Shaquille O’Neal
#42 James Worthy
#52 Jamaal Wilkes
Shaq played for the Lakers for 8 seasons. Chamberlain only spent 5 seasons with the Lakers, Wilkes notched 8 seasons, while Kareem spent 14 seasons with the purple and gold. Gail Goodrich had two separate stints with the Lakers for a total of 9 seasons. Magic, West, Worthy, Baylor played their entire careers with the Lakers.
Pau does have the minimum amount of seasons that one of the retired jerseys needed, with Chamberlain only playing five seasons with the Lakers, but that was Wilt freaking Chamberlain, who even in his advanced age had three seasons for the Lakers where he averaged at least 20 points and 18 rebounds. So what are Pau’s qualifications? He’s been a three time All-Star with the Lakers, voted to one All-NBA 2nd team and two All-NBA 3rd teams. He’s a two-time NBA Champion, with three finals appearances to his name. Many have made the argument that Gasol should have been named Finals MVP in 2010.
The bottom line is Gasol will make the Hall of Fame, especially considering his European and international play. Remember this is the BASKETBALL Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame. Gasol has two silver medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, cementing Spain as the 2nd best basketball nation during the time of American dominance. He has been named twice the FIBA European Play of the Year along with many other accolades.
So will we be seeing #16 hanging from the rafters after Pau retires? In my mind, yes. He has played a similar role to that of Jamaal Wilkes in terms of production, and helping the team to three straight NBA Finals is quite an accomplishment. The only thing that I could see keeping Gasol from having his number hoisted into the rafters would be amount of seasons spent in LA. But he wouldn’t even have the fewest seasons of anyone, and if he comes back after this season, it would be certainly enough tenured time with the Lakers.
When playing with Kobe it is easy to get overshadowed, but true Lakers fans know how important Gasol has been to the team, and that without him, the Lakers wouldn’t have made those three straight NBA Finals resulting in two titles. If Gasol does not have his jersey retired, it would be the first time the Los Angeles Lakers had a player inducted into the Hall of Fame and did not have their jersey retired. This all adds up to Gasol going down as one of the hallowed Lakers legends.
When the time comes, Pau will have his jersey retired. And that’s the way it should be.