Nearly seven years ago to the day, Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers from the Memphis Grizzlies. His presence immediately put the Los Angeles Lakers over the top in a killer Western Conference – the team made it to the Finals in his first half-season, and after a full training camp with the team later in 2008 the Lakers won championship rings in 2009 and 2010.
Gasol’s brilliance easily melded with the stylings of the great Kobe Bryant and the perfect-for-Pau Phil Jackson, he quickly won the hearts of some of our favorite celebrity NBA fans, and his all-around game was the needed boost that gave Kobe a chance to prove to the world that he hardly needed Shaquille O’Neal to win titles, just another brilliant 7-footer (or two) to help when things got rough.
Gasol left the Lakers last summer to join an emerging Chicago Bulls squad, turning down more money along the way while citing the Bulls’ talent and Chicago’s arts scene as the main draws in his decision. The Lakers are in the middle of another frustrating year, what with Kobe Bryant working through a third consecutive season-ending injury and the franchise clearly shooting to tank the season so as to keep and enhance their odds at a great lottery pick. Gasol’s Bulls visit the Staples Center tonight, and in what we think is an unprecedented tribute, the Lakers decided to give these shirts out to fans:
That is incredibly classy.
NBA squads are increasingly taking advantage of timing and video tributes to show respect to players on opposing teams that may have done their best work on what would then be the opposing home team. Stars and former stars such as LeBron James, Luol Deng and Vince Carter have all taken in appropriate Jumbotron tributes mid-game this season, and for good reason.
This is the first time that we can recall an opposing player being part of an apparel giveaway. And at a Laker game, no less, where the punters (in the lower bowl, at least) are typically loath to cover up what they wore to be seen at the people’s parties with a lowly t-shirt. The Lakers rarely give these sorts of things out.
For Pau, though, you make an exception. And Lakers coach Byron Scott agrees:
“This is a guy who was here that helped them win two championships,” said Scott, referring to the Lakers’ title runs in 2009 and 2010. “Pau was a great player when he was here and is still a great player and having a lot of success in Chicago. Fans should show him the respect he deserves.”
For once, Byron Scott is right. Put the shirt on, El Lay, and give it up for Pau.
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