Former Lakers great Pau Gasol retires after 18 NBA seasons

Pau Gasol, the former Lakers great who formed a bond with Kobe Bryant on and off the court, has retired from professional basketball.

Gasol, 41, announced the decision Tuesday in a news conference broadcast on his Twitter page. The Lakers said they will retire his No. 16 uniform.

He played 18 seasons in the NBA, including seven with the Lakers when he won a pair of NBA championships. The team acquired Gasol in a trade from Memphis, sending back a package of players that included his younger brother, Marc, who became one of the NBA’s top centers.

The deal injected life into Bryant’s second act with the Lakers, pushing the team into immediate contention and NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. At the mention of Bryant’s name Tuesday during his announcement, Gasol struggled to speak as he was briefly overcome with emotion.

“It’s a difficult decision after so many years,” Gasol said of retirement at the news conference, “but it’s a decision that I really thought over.”

In his time with the Lakers, Gasol averaged 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 blocks. In his career, he was a six-time All-Star and a four-time All-NBA player. He was the 2002 NBA rookie of the year, the first non-American to win that honor.

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In addition to the Grizzlies and the Lakers, Gasol played for Chicago, San Antonio and Milwaukee. He last competed in the NBA on March 10, 2019. A stress fracture in his left foot derailed his NBA career.

He recovered from injuries to compete abroad this past season, culminating with another appearance for the Spanish national team during the Tokyo Olympics. While his impact on the court had seriously diminished, his mere presence was enough.

“I worked my butt off to do it. And I felt like it was worth the effort, it was worth the risk. And I just felt like I deserved to finish at this stage,” Gasol said in Tokyo. “I like doing extraordinary things, you know? And I felt like this was something that it was worth working for and fighting for.”

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