Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant‘s sure-fire 20-year Hall of Fame career is coming to a close on Wednesday night, which has only increased the outpour of admiration and gratitude directed his way.
Among this wave of appreciation towards Bryant is his former teammate Pau Gasol, who spent 6 1/2 seasons with the franchise that included winning a pair of NBA championships. With that in mind, Gasol has taken the time to pen out a letter to the 18-time All-Star prior to his official retirement that voiced high praise and thankfulness for the player and inspiration that he was.
“If you play with him, you’re looking every day at living proof of why the greats are the greats. It’s not by accident. It’s an obsession to reach that level and remain at that level. The dedication, the commitment, is such a unique thing. You don’t find it. He inspired me to be better, to see the game in a more detailed way.”
During his time with the Lakers, Gasol helped form one of the league’s best and most successful duos alongside Bryant while playing some of the best basketball of his career averaging 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks that helped him earn three All-Star game selections (2009-2011), two All-NBA Third Team nods (2009-2010), and had one All-NBA Second Team selection (2011).
Gasol also had developed a strong relationship with Bryant that extends off the court, which made it all the more difficult for him to make the decision to leave the Lakers in the summer of 2014 because of the high level of success that he has yet to experience since then.
“He said he wanted me to stay in L.A. and battle with him and finish our careers together. Those were his words. I told him I was in a place where I needed a change in my heart. I needed a change of air. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, telling him, “I’m deciding not to play with you anymore.”
“I signed with the Bulls because I wanted to put myself in position to win another title. I haven’t been able to do that. I miss him a lot. I miss his presence. I miss that attitude. Not many players have it. “
In truth, Gasol had the best years of his career with the Lakers, which only makes brings more meaningfulness to his words towards Bryant.