From the moment he arrived in LA, Pau Gasol felt welcomed by one teammate in particular, Kobe Bryant.
Bryant knocked on Gasol’s hotel room door just hours after he was traded midseason from Memphis in 2008.
“Kobe made sure from the moment that I landed and joined the team that I was on the same boat that he was on,” Gasol . “I never heard that message [before], ‘Now let’s go win a title; let’s win us a ring.’ ”
Gasol saw this interaction as Bryant’s attempt to “create that connection, appreciate me and embrace me” and it worked, because they formed an inseparable bond.
Gasol, who last week had his jersey alongside Bryant’s at Crypto.com Arena, described how he and Bryant had so much on-court chemistry.
“It was timing in our careers,” Gasol said.
“He understood to be considered one of the best of all time that he needed more championships. He wanted more championships. Michael [Jordan] was his idol and role model. He wanted to get the fourth and fifth to tie Magic and go past Shaq and six to tie Michael. That was his goal.”
The pair went on to appear in three straight Finals and win two titles together and the reason it worked so well is because Bryant had finally accepted he needed a low-post player to win and didn’t want to play with a dominant center like Shaquille O’Neal, former Lakers trainer Gary Vitti recalled.
“Pau was not dominant in the sense that Shaq was,” Vitti said. “But Pau was absolutely one of the most talented low-post players, especially of his time. Pau was willing to be Batman’s Robin. Shaq wasn’t. Pau had an ability to read the game, read Kobe and react to what Kobe was doing and not get frustrated. Pau played the game the right way. They complemented each other.”