Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol was honoured to introduce former Los Angeles Lakers team-mate and friend Kobe Bryant to the floor during Sunday’s pre-game introductions, in a gesture bestowed upon him by the team itself.
In what is becoming a familiar trademark for this season whenever Bryant competes for the final time in an away venue, the Bulls played a special tribute video, recognising the career of the third all-time leading scorer in NBA history with Derrick Rose describing him as “our generation of Michael Jordan”.
Then Gasol, in a pre-recorded message, introduced Bryant to the masses at the United Center to a standing ovation.
“It was suggested to me, and I was totally fine with it,” Gasol said when asked if it was his idea to introduce Bryant. “I think they put a great video, a great intro together, and I was proud and honoured to be a part of it.”
The playoff-contending Bulls in the end beat the struggling Lakers 126-115 with Gasol hitting 21 points and pulling down seven rebounds while his former team-mate Bryant shot 40 percent from the field for his 22.
Gasol though, despite the emotion involved and the numerous battles that he and Bryant have endured over the years as team-mates plus as opponents in the NBA and internationally, got the last tick in the W column.
“Yeah, I mean we try to block the emotions out a little bit,” Gasol explained. “But it was fun, it was special too to play against him again and to win it the last time. Because it’s not going to happen again, at least in an NBA game. So we might play some one-on-one pickup back in Barcelona, or in LA, or wherever we meet again. But not in this scenario.”
Indeed the next time these two meet on the same court might be in a more relaxed atmosphere than what they are both accustomed to, but the legacy these two will leave on the court will always be remembered.
Photo: NBAE / Getty Images