With the possibility that Pau Gasol will make his final trip to Los Angeles on Thursday when the Spurs take on the Lakers, the NBA Global crew discusses whether or not the six-time All-Star deserves to have his jersey retired by the franchise when he retires.
Micah Adams (Managing Editor NBA Global editions): The Lakers simply do not win the NBA title in 2009 or 2010 without Gasol. And if Kobe Bryant remained stuck on three championships, he is certainly not remembered in the same way. If you consider Bryant's place in the history of the game as one of the five most defining characteristics of the Lakers franchise, then it's impossible to undersell Gasol's massively important role in shaping the course of Lakers history.
Without Gasol, Kobe simply isn't Kobe.
There's also the precedent already in place. Jamaal Wilkes was the third-best player on two championship teams and has his jersey in the rafters at Staples Center. James Worthy was the third-best player on three championship teams and has his jersey retired. Gail Goodrich won one title as a Lakers second banana and has been deemed worthy.
Gasol didn't spend as much time with the franchise as those three and yet it's hard to make the argument that he had any less of an impact than any of them.
Carlan Gay (Managing Editor NBA Canada): Yes, the Lakers should absolutely retire Gasol's No. 16 jersey.
Let's face it: If Gasol doesn't get traded when he does, the Lakers don't make three straight Finals appearances and they definitely don't win two championships. Bryant should be jumping up and down to get Gasol to have his jersey in the rafters because he single-handedly saved Kobe's legacy.
Imagine if Gasol doesn't come to L.A. Kobe doesn't have five rings, the Lakers wouldn't have won a championship since 2002, Phil Jackson stays tied with Red Auerbach at nine rings and we probably have Carmelo Anthony in the Finals one year with the Nuggets. OK, maybe that last one is a stretch, but Gasol was as good a big man at that time as anyone in the league and he performed at a high level when it mattered most in those championship years.
They owe Gasol this especially since they didn't give him the 2010 Finals MVP he deserved.
Jordan Greer (NBA Editor Sporting News): The Lakers shouldn't retire Gasol's jersey, but only because the bar is so high in Los Angeles.
Gasol averaged 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a Laker in regular season action from 2008-14, and he remained productive through LA's playoff runs (16.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists over 93 playoff games). The Lakers don't win back-to-back titles without him, and - whispering this part so Bryant fans don't hear me - he should have gotten more consideration for 2010 Finals MVP.
With all that said, we are talking about the Lakers here. These are the retired numbers for the franchise: Bryant (8 and 24), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Magic Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Shaquille O'Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52). That list includes some of the greatest players in league history, including the all-time points leader and the NBA logo, and many of them are remembered as Lakers icons.
The team should start a Ring of Honor for players like Gasol, or at least name a section of Staples Center after him. (Ordering drinks at "Pau's Porch" on the second level would be fun.) I definitely would not be upset if Gasol's jersey ended up hanging in the rafters with other LA legends, but he is just outside of a very exclusive club in my book.
Takuma Oikawa (Chief Editor NBA Japan): That's an interesting and difficult question.
Gasol went to the NBA Finals three times and won two championship rings in his six-and-a-half seasons for the Lakers. I believe the Lakers wouldn't have made the 2008 Finals and won the 2009 and 2010 titles without him. He was clearly a very important piece as the second option next to Kobe Bryant.
Pau's Lakers era might be a little bit short, but I ultimately think he deserves to have his No. 16 in the Staples Center's rafter, making him the first international player to have his number retired by the franchise.
Leandro Fernandez (NBA.com Argentina): Are six-and-a-half seasons being part of a franchise enough to be remembered as one of the greatest and to have your jersey in the rafters at Staples Center? Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes. The quality and impact are not measured in time (by the way, six-and-a-half years are a long stay), but for how big that impact was. And Gasol's one in Lakers was huge.
Bryant, one of the greatest ever, was itching to get the supporting cast needed to compete for more titles. The Spaniard was the solution to those problems. Pau fixed everything and was a sensational second banana during their back-to-back run. There's no way of having a definitive answer to this question, but it's still worth asking: Would Kobe have won his last two rings if it weren't for Gasol? Probably not, right?
When the eldest of the Gasol's Brothers decides to finish his career and leaves as one of the best international NBA players ever, the Lakers' only option will be to celebrate his glorious past by retiring his jersey.
Carlos Herrera (NBA.com México): Bryant's voice is an authoritative one at the Lakers, and him signing off on retiring Gasol's No. 16 jersey makes this answer a simple one.
What Gasol did for the Lakers was magical. He formed such a great bond with Kobe and was a huge part of those two rings. One of the greatest foreign NBA players ever and one of those players that everybody would love to have on his team, he deserves to have his jersey retired.
Sergio Rabinal (NBA.com España): Lakers' No. 16 should be in the rafters at Staples Center.
The last 10 years for the Lakers can't be explained without Gasol. Without him, there wouldn't have two more rings. His contribution in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, running the team when Kobe Bryant wasn't at his best, is the best example on how he must be remembered and why he deserves to have his jersey next to legends like James Worthy or Jamaal Wilkes.
The NBA is more than star players who score 30 points each night, and Gasol was always Kobe's perfect sidekick.
Manuel de la Torre (NBA.com España): There are two things a franchise needs to think about when retiring a player's jersey. The first is the impact and importance that the player in question had on the team's success. The second one is how long the player was there.
If we only evaluated Gasol's case based on the last one, I do think his six-and-a-half years as a Laker are a little bit short - even more so if we keep in mind the ugly finish to his time with the team.
But if we stick with his early years (that's related to the first criteria), his trade in February of 2008 changed Lakers modern history for the better. He got used to Phil Jackson's Triangle offence quickly and became one of the team's leaders inside and outside the floor. In a barely few months, the Lakers went back to the NBA Finals. They lost that year, but they won the next two championships.
It has been said consistently about Pau that he is a soft player, a label that vanished when he contained Dwight Howard during the 2009 NBA Finals. The following year, he gave everything in those intense series against Boston. Here in Spain, some believe that he deserved to win NBA Finals MVP award. I don't agree with them, but I do think that in a few years we will see him in a tribute like his friend Kobe had not a long time ago.
Gasol deserves it.
Benyam Kidane (Senior Editor NBA Australia): This is tough. Gasol was a vital part of two Lakers championships and will always have a special place in Laker fans hearts, but when you look up at the jerseys already hanging, would 'Gasol 16' look out of place? Kind of, but he has as strong a case as anyone else who has put on the purple and gold uniform.
Nine of the retired jerseys belong to players in the Hall-of-Fame, with Kobe heading there next. With Gasol's titles, All-Star appearances, All-NBA selections and success in Europe and with the Spanish national team, he'll also be headed for Springfield soon, making it hard to leave him out.
Sure, Pau was only there for six-and-a-half seasons and was never the best player on the team, but the modern-day Lakers aren't what they are without Gasol.
Send it up!