Kobe Bryant hung Olympic gold medal at Pau Gasol’s locker as motivation
Kobe Bryant has been known to be a master motivator for current NBA stars like Isaiah Thomas, Devin Booker, and others hoping to take their careers to greater heights. His advice hasn’t always been reserved to post-retirement sessions, as he once did with former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Pau Gasol after winning the gold medal at the end of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Knowing the fierce competitor Gasol was, Bryant poked the one spot he knew would irk his co-star, urging him to channel it as motivation.
Via 247 Sports:
“One of my favorite ones, Pau hates it every time I tell this story. He hates it,” said Kobe Bryant in a sit-down interview. “We lost to the Celtics in ’08 and it was a physical series. I mean, they beat the crap out of us. We go into the Olympic year, that year, we wind up playing Spain for the gold-medal match and we beat them. So now we come back to start training camp and Pau shows up first day of training camp, I have my gold medal hanging in his locker.
“The one thing he truly, truly loves is his country. That is like everything to him. So it just drove him crazy. He said ‘You’re an ass***e!’ I said, ‘Listen Pau, you lost to the Celtics, you lost to us in the gold-medal match, let’s not make this three in a row this year. Let’s win this thing.’ That was it for him.”
The Lakers would go on to ride Bryant’s gold-medal-winning momentum and taste gold themselves, winning championships in 2009 and 2010, as Bryant edged former teammate Shaquille O’Neal in total championships, while giving Pau his first two.
“Pau was a phenomenon to begin with,” Bryant added. “For him, it was just stepping up a level of physicality, that we needed him to get to, which he did and we went on to win back-to-back championships.”
Pau Gasol visibly went from a frail European-style perimeter-oriented center to a beast on the block, making punishing runs to the rim and finishing at a high rate. He shot a beefy 58 percent in ’09, averaging 18.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game in the postseason, making constant trips to the foul line through a playoff-high 40.5 minutes per game to earn his first NBA title.