Pau Gasol made his first return to Staples Center earlier this week.
The Spaniard, who won two NBA championships while with the Lakers, left L.A. over the summer to join the Chicago Bulls.
Gasol was welcomed back to the City of Angels with open arms. The Lakers handed out “Thanks Pau” t-shirts to every fan in attendance and even played a tribute video before the game.
Gasol was clearly appreciative of the kind of reception he received back in L.A. He later called the franchise’s tribute a “moment” that he will “never forget.”
Tough loss for our team tonight but I will never forget this moment. Thanks for the incredible ovation and the love that you all always have shown me. Dura derrota esta noche para nuestro equipo pero nunca olvidaré este momento. Muchas gracias por la increíble ovación y el cariño que siempre me habéis mostrado.
This likely isn’t the last of the Lakers’ tributes to Gasol, though.
According to Bill Oram from the Orange County Register, the team “intends” to retire Gasol’s number 16 jersey somewhere down the line. While this isn’t surprising news for many, there are some in the basketball world who have doubted whether the purple and gold will hoist Gasol’s jersey into the rafters.
However, seeing as the Lakers retire the jerseys of former players who are later inducted into the Hall of Fame, Gasol having his name up in the rafters someday is inevitable. Not only has Gasol had a extremely successful NBA career, but he has also become one of the all-time greats when it comes to the international side of the game.
Gasol was ultra important to the Lakers, and without him the team likely wouldn’t have won those championships in 2009 and 2010. For these reasons alone, it’s clear to see why the purple and gold plan to hang his number among the banners in the future.
The only question that remains is whether Gasol’s 16 will be hanging next to Kobe Bryant’s 8 or 24. Or will they retire both? We’ll just have to wait and see.