Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thanks for the Memories, Pau

Most awesome Pau Gasol art I've ever seen. 
It is recent news that Pau Gasol has turned down the Lakers’ offer to stay and decided instead to go to the Chicago Bulls.  So, this is it then.  It’s time to part ways, hence, I am compelled to write this brief tribute for one of my most favorite players that ever wore the purple and gold uniform.

Outside of winning championships, my most exciting experience as a Laker fan was learning that the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol during the 2007-08 NBA season.  I can still remember that moment and feeling when I went to Yahoo! Sports’ NBA page and read the headline, “Lakers Acquire Spanish Treasure” or something of that effect (can’t remember the exact words).  My heart leaped.  Then I read on to check out what the Lakers had to give up to acquire Pau, and I was extremely astonished.   I was expecting that Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom was part of the deal, but it was not so.  It was merely for Kwame Brown, a member of the Lakers’ roster so terrible in basketball that even Laker fans themselves booed him, and some other irrelevant pieces.  Though one of those “irrelevant” pieces was for the rights for Pau’s younger brother, Marc Gasol, who turned out to be a legitimate All-Star, and at this point, a more prized player than Pau, but back then, the trade really felt so ridiculously one-sided to the Lakers’ advantage that I was completely stunned.  It had been quite surreal.  Stephen A. Smith’s legendary analysis of the trade, wherein he hilariously destroyed Kwame Brown (“Kwa-meh Brown is a bona fide scrub!”), only helped in making my elation during that time more memorable. 

At that moment of Pau Gasol becoming a Laker, it really felt to me that winning the championship again was tangibly near.  The Celtics would delay it from happening during that season, but the next year, in just his second season as a Laker, Pau Gasol was instrumentalal in making it finally happen.  And in the season after that, it happened again, and winning that one against the Celtics made it even sweeter (Pau Gasol was fantastic during that Finals). Those were glorious days for Lakerdom.       

Shaquille O’Neal was definitely the more dominant player, but Pau Gasol was the more suitable fit to partner with Kobe Bryant.  Kobe provided the cunning and aggressiveness, while Pau provided the discretion and level-headedness. They were able to quickly establish rapport with each other, as this was apparent when merely half-a-season (Pau Gasol was traded midway the season) of playing together, they were able to reach the Finals, and then, in just their second year, they were able to win the championship.  And, clearly, Kobe likes, appreciates, and respects Pau much more than Shaq.     

I found no other NBA player that can play with the same kind of finesse and intellect that Kobe Bryant has except for Pau Gasol.  He probably equals Kobe in terms of basketball IQ and richness of skills (but in a different context, of course).  His passing, pivot, and post moves were the best I’ve ever seen in a big man of the 21st century NBA. 
I'm gonna miss his gorgeous footwork...
...and his innate versatility.
Pau Gasol was a graceful, fun thing to watch.  Besides Kobe, I have enjoyed watching no other Laker except Pau.        

I’m real sad to see him go.  I prefer for him to re-sign with the Lakers, and to retire as a Laker in the future, but I am not bitter regarding his decision to leave.  There is no reason to.  It was within his right to leave, and during his seven seasons playing in purple and gold, he had done his duty and had produced countless good memories for Lakerdom.  I am grateful that the Lakers got to have a player like him.

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