In 2008, the Lakers made a trade that looked so lopsided – acquiring Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies for an expiring contract, a 76ers assistant coach, a rookie point guard with more turnovers than assists, two future first-round picks and the rights to a second-rounder with no plans ever to join the NBA – Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich suggested the league create a trade committee that could veto deals like this.
That trade to Los Angeles and subsequent commentary immediately raised the profile of Gasol, the 2002 Rookie of the Year who never won a playoff game in his six full seasons in Memphis and – like many European players of the era – had a reputation for being soft.
Then, Gasol did everything in his power to boost his own reputation. He proved to be the missing piece for the Lakers, key in reversing Kobe Bryant’s trade request. Gasol helped the Lakers reach three straight NBA Finals and win titles in 2009 and 2010. Against the Celtics in 2010, Gasol even arguably should have won Finals MVP.
Gasol went from a borderline star to a future Hall of Famer. He showed he could complement his finesse with mettle and thrive on the biggest stages.
Now, the 41-year-old has announced his retirement.
Gasol played 18 NBA seasons, made two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and six All-Star teams. The Lakers have already announced they’ll retire his No. 16. He also won silver medals with Spain in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and a bronze in the 2016 Games. With his peak, longevity and international bona fides, Gasol checks every box for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 2011, the Lakers agreed to trade Gasol in a package for Chris Paul – a deal infamously vetoed by NBA commissioner David Stern. Gasol returned to Los Angeles, but his relationship with the team was never the same, especially once Mike D’Antoni became coach.
That was one last ride with his brother, Marc Gasol. The two have spent decades competing with and against each other. The second-rounder with no plans ever to join the NBA sent from Los Angeles to Memphis in the 2008 trade? Marc. As Marc nears the end of his own excellent career, it’s an opportunity to celebrate a great basketball family, though Marc might have a little left in the tank.
Pau is ready to move onto the next stage of his life.