Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were one of the most productive duos of their time. With games that complimented each other perfectly, their partnership was seamless -- and they've got the hardware to prove it.
But when did their bond first begin? As Pau told ESPN's Zach Lowe, it was the moment Pau got off the plane as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It was very early, when I joined the team in Washington D.C. after my physicals in L.A. (following the trade). The team was on the road, I joined the team, I wasn’t gonna play, they had an afternoon game the next day on Sunday. I was not gonna play that game, I hadn’t had a chance to practice or do anything, and Kobe had been texting me from the moment I got traded that as soon as I arrived in Washington D.C., he wanted to stop by in my room and kind of talk to me and welcome me to the team.
“I told him like ‘hey, okay, it’s gonna be late, like 1:30 or so, so you don’t have to. We can wait until tomorrow if you want.’ He was like ‘no, no, no. I’m coming. I’m coming.’ So he came, obviously I was happily surprised and he told me ‘hey I’m very happy that you’re here, very excited, this is great, but now let’s go win a championship.’
“So from the very beginning he really sent a message of what he was going to be like, and what he was about, and the kind of level and mindset I had to be at. Losing, not winning a game in the playoffs, that’s over with. Here we’re gonna go for a championship. And that was really great and unique and incredible from his part, and showed what type of leader he was.”
We know what the two did in their time together -- two Championships in three straight trips to the Finals. But their bond stretched beyond the basketball court.
As it would be revealed later, they became close friends even after they parted ways in the NBA.
Perhaps what's most interesting about all of this is what it says about Kobe's leadership. The fact that he made sure to make Pau feel welcome, despite it being 2 in the morning, shows his willingness to sacrifice for his teammates. Right away, he made sure that Pau had the right mindset and assured him that things were going to be different in L.A.
Say what you want about Kobe, but that strategy clearly worked out for him.