Inside Basketball Player Pau Gasol’s Relationship with Kobe Bryant and the Late Athlete's Family

Inside Basketball Player Pau Gasol’s Relationship with Kobe Bryant and the Late Athlete's Family

September 14, 2020

Kobe Bryant and former teammate Pau Gasol formed an especially close relationship during their time on the Los Angeles Lakers, and their bond remained strong long after they played their final game together.

Since Kobe's untimely death in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, 40-year-old Spanish basketball player Gasol has been a source of emotional support for Kobe's wife, Vanessa, and their three daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 14-month-old Capri.

From surprising them with flowers and gifts to enjoying a trip together to the San Francisco Bay Area in August, Gasol and his wife, Catherine McDonnell, have done their best to stand by the Bryants in the months since the accident. But in one of their most touching gestures yet, Gasol and McDonnell recently named their newborn "Elisabet Gianna Gasol" in memory of Kobe's late daughter.

The bond between the two families began in 2008 when Gasol was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to Los Angeles. At the time, Kobe had grown dissatisfied with the Lakers, who had not returned to championship contention since losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. It was later revealed Kobe even demanded a trade from Los Angeles the year before, with his first choice being the Chicago Bulls — the former home of his idol, Michael Jordan.

But the Lakers then secured Gasol from the Grizzlies. Gasol gave Kobe the supporting costar he needed.

After Gasol made his debut with the Lakers in a 105-90 defeat of the New Jersey Nets, Kobe famously proclaimed "There is a God, there is a God," in a post-game interview.

The seven-foot-tall athlete made the Lakers instant contenders for the championship and helped to lead them to an NBA finals appearance later that season.

The Lakers rebounded the following year to win the NBA title against the Orlando Magic, thanks to the duo's performances. The 2009 title was Kobe’s fourth championship and Gasol’s first.

The next year, the Lakers beat Boston in a thrilling Game 7 at Staples Center — earning Kobe's fifth and final NBA championship.

But the Lakers would struggle during the next few seasons, with constant coaching changes and numerous injuries suffered by Kobe. Gasol became a free agent in 2014 and left the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls after years of trade speculation.

But Kobe and Gasol remained close in the time that followed and were seen spending time together during the former's final NBA All-Star Game in 2016, the year of his retirement.

In February, Gasol opened up to the Los Angeles Times about finding out about Kobe's death, saying, "I just started crying, it was hard to find words, I couldn’t talk to anyone for days."

“I basically didn’t leave the house,” he added.

But Gasol said he immediately connected with Kobe's widow, Vanessa, to let her know she had his support.

“I couldn’t imagine the pain she was going through, because if I was struggling, her loss was plural. I couldn’t even think of what that felt like, and I wouldn’t know what to say,” Gasol told the newspaper. “At the end of the day, that’s what I consider us to be, family.”

Contributions to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.

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