Former Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol credited Kobe Bryant with helping him get selected as a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame. The late NBA legend’s former teammate spoke about Kobe’s impact on his career, Friday, while in Utah to coach one of the teams in the Jordan Rising Stars championship. He also accepted his nomination for the Hall of Fame. Gasol explained that Bryant is in his heart “forever.”
“Every step of the way, he’s on my mind, he’s in my heart along with Gigi. And he’s going to be there forever,” Gasol said during All-Star Weekend in Utah. “I grew as a player, I played at a high-level thanks to him, in great part.” Gasol and Bryant were teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers from 2008 to 2014. Together they helped the team win back-to-back NBA Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Gasol With Bianka and Capri
“His leadership, his example, his approach really elevated my game, made me a better player,” Gasol continued. “My name, my number don’t go into those rafters without those championships. And we don’t win those championships without Kobe Bryant.” He added: “He will always be with me, in every moment, not just basketball recognitions, but personally too. His family is my family. We will continue to go forward thinking that he is watching. He’s definitely part of those moments.”
Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020. Bryant was 41 years old at the time while Gianna was just 13. Gasol and Bryant’s relationship extended off of the court. Less than a year after Bryant and Gianna’s passing, Gasol and his wife named their newborn daughter after Gianna.
In addition to Pau Gasol, other finalists for the Class of 2023 include Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, and former San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “The Class of 2023 will be remembered as one of the most distinguished classes the Hall of Fame will ever see, and we are extremely excited for this unparalleled collection of talent and achievement to be one step closer to Springfield,” Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said of the finalists, according to the AP.