Pau Gasol (2008-2014)
In the years following O’Neal’s departure from the City of Angels, Bryant was left having to carry his team to victory mostly by himself. But when the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol in 2008, Kobe finally got his man.
By the time the Lakers got Gasol, the Spaniard was already an established force to be reckoned with from his time with the Grizzlies. He was the 2002 Rookie of the Year and broke numerous franchise records during his time in Memphis. His first year with Kobe resulted in a trip to the NBA Finals before losing to rivals the Boston Celtics in six. Over the next two years, Gasol continued to perform at an exceptional rate and established his partnership with Bryant as one of the best in the league.
Together, they defeated the Orlando Magic 4-1 in the 2009 Finals and exacted the sweetest form of revenge with a Game 7 home victory over the Celtics in 2010. Pau was at the forefront of the title charge in both years, having to defend and score against all-timers in Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett.
As thrilling as it was to witness Pau and Kobe dominate at the end of the 2000s, it’s their off-court bond that resonates strongly with fans. Their dynamic transcends basketball as both their families are lifelong friends with each other. Since the tragic passing of both Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Pau has been a true gem for the Bryant family and can be regularly seen spending time with them.
His contributions to the Lakers in the six years he played for them did not go unnoticed and last March 7, 2023, the franchise retired his #16 jersey where it has a permanent spot right beside the #24 worn by one of his very best friends.