Former Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol credited Kobe Bryant with helping the big man become a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gasol was at Utah's Vivint Arena on Friday to coach one of the teams in the Jordan Rising Stars championship and accept his nomination for the Hall of Fame. The retired Lakers legend made it clear that Kobe Bryant had as much to do with his success on the court as anyone.

“Every step of the way, he’s on my mind, he's in my heart along with Gigi. And he’s going to be there forever,” Pau Gasol said Friday during All-Star Weekend in Utah, “I grew as a player, I played at a high level thanks to him, in great part.”

“His leadership, his example, his approach really elevated my game, made me a better player,” Gasol continued. “My name, my number don’t go into those rafters without those championships. And we don’t win those championships without Kobe Bryant.”

Gasol made one All-Star team with the Memphis Grizzlies, but he truly developed into a Hall of Fame player when he was traded to the Lakers in 2008.  After coming up short in the 2008 NBA Finals, Gasol and Bryant led the Lakers to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010.

The relationship between Gasol and Bryant extended off the court, where the teammates became incredibly close. Less than eight months after Bryant's death, Gasol and his wife named their newborn daughter after Gianna Bryant, who died with Kobe Bryant in the January 2020 helicopter crash.

“He will always be with me, in every moment, not just basketball recognitions, but personally too. His family is my family,” Gasol said. “We will continue to go forward thinking that he is watching. He’s definitely part of those moments.”

Gasol ended his career with two championships, six All-Star appearances and four All-NBA selections.