To the right of the banner they helped win are the numbers of some of the greatest basketball men to ever play in this league.
George Mikan’s No. 99 is two spots to the left of Wilt Chamberlain’s No. 13. One row directly below is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s No. 33. Below that and to the left is Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34.
And on Tuesday, after helping the Lakers win a pair of championships, the curtain came down on Pau Gasol’s No. 16. Fittingly, it will live directly to the right of Kobe Bryant’s No. 24.
As he watched the opening, Gasol shook his head and wiped tears from his eyes.
“To the city of LA, to the Lakers nation, I love you, I love you so much,” Gasol said from midcourt. “I will love you forever, thank you for making me feel so special, it was an honor, it really was.
The festivities surrounding the game with the Memphis Grizzlies were filled with emotional journeys into the Lakers’ past, moments that would have been impossible without Gasol’s presence with Bryant.
the present? That’s on top of the player the Lakers will be the next in their line of giants.
Fans chanted “MVP” when Anthony Davis drove to the free throw line late in the fourth quarter, a minute before he and the Lakers finished off the Grizzlies 112-103.
“I told Pau the truth, I wanted to be there one day, too,” Davis said. “… I want to be in that category, that team.”
The Lakers are in sole possession of ninth place in the Western Conference and are two games under .500.
Davis’ spike in the final seconds iced the game, and he finished with 30 points and 22 rebounds.
Asked for his thoughts on Davis, coach Darvin Ham drew inspiration from the holes.
“Wilt?” Just kidding. “…the absolute Wilt Davis. He’s acting like a monster.’
In the first quarter, Davis looked like one of the team’s all-time greats, dominating every inch of the court as he became one of the NBA’s greatest two-way talents.
Before he checked in with 30 seconds left in the quarter, he scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, easily en route to another double-double.
Lakers’ Austin Reaves, right, handles the ball as Memphis Grizzlies forward Xavier Tillman (2) and guard John Konchar (46) defend during the second half at Crypto.com Arena.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
It was another moment of dominance, the kind that is happening more and more at a time when his team needs it most.
LeBron James remains injured and D’Angelo Russell, the natural next in line to fill the void, is still working his way back.
He knocked Davis out of the game with a right hook from Memphis rookie David Roddy, bleeding from the left side of his nose as he went to the locker room for treatment.
Without him on the court, the Lakers struggled, Ja Morant’s Grizzlies played with a lot of fight. All-Star Jaren Jackson Jr. he lived in the paint and the line and Memphis led by more than six.
But when the Lakers pulled away in the fourth quarter, Davis was once again in the spotlight. He went down and scored, sank free throws and hit jumpers. And in a play that electrified the crowd, he took the rebound over Jackson, drove the fastbreak and found Rui Hachimura for the basket.
Hachimura and Austin Reaves had 17 off the bench for the Lakers and Dennis Schroder had 17 and nine assists as the Lakers won for the sixth time in their last eight games.
Help may be coming soon. Russell was listed as questionable on Monday, but ruled it out before Tuesday’s game. He went through a full-speed workout with the Lakers’ coaches before the game and could be on track to return Friday against Toronto.
That may be cause for celebration. Tuesday, however, belonged to Gasoline.
After a private pregame event, Gasol spoke to the media from the same room he sat in after the Lakers’ 2010 NBA championship.
“Tonight, just – the anticipation, the excitement, the honor, it’s so great for me because it’s going to be so hard to take,” Gasol said. “I have to remind myself that it’s a celebration, great, beautiful. It’s amazing that you can experience that in your life and have so many people around you who have followed you and stood by you on your journey.”
From there, they were honored with a couple of videos during the second quarter. The first, the highlight of his career, ended with a standing ovation for a teary-eyed Gasol. The second video featured former teammates Phil Jackson and Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher and Metta Sandiford-Artest.
At halftime, after the Lakers unveiled his No. 16 next to Bryant’s No. 24, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and Vanessa Bryant joined Gasol’s family on the court for the official ceremony.
“It’s something very special,” Gasol said before the game.
On Tuesday, it was. And so does Davis.