A decade ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were a dominant force in the NBA with Kobe Bryant leading the team to prominence in the league once again playing alongside what turned out to be the perfect teammate in Pau Gasol.
In three straight NBA Finals appearances, the Lakers faced the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics twice. At that time, LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers were a team on the rise with the superstar forward giving Bryant some competition for the distinction of being the best player in the NBA.
Unfortunately, the NBA Finals matchup everyone wanted to see at the time never came to fruition. We never got to see Kobe and LeBron go head-to-head in the Finals as Cleveland fell short three years in a row, which led to LeBron leaving for Miami in 2011. Gasol spoke with ClutchPoints as part of our 10th-anniversary series about the Lakers' back-to-back titles and talked about whether the team thought they'd face LeBron in the Finals at some point.
“It was possible,” Gasol told ClutchPoints. “It didn’t happen because Boston was a stronger team, and Orlando was a stronger team than Cleveland in those years, so it didn't happen.
“That's when I guess LeBron ended up leaving and going to Miami. I was hoping to meet him in 2011, but we weren’t in the right state of mind or in the right place in order to do that. We didn't earn it, and Dallas did.
“We had our run just like every other team that gets to that level. We just can't think of the could have, should have, would have.”
With so much changing in the NBA over the past decade, there has been a lot of debate as late about whether championship teams of the past could hold up against teams that dominate the competition in the three-point revolution. Gasol shared his thoughts on if his Lakers championship squads could contend with the best of the best in today's NBA.
“I think we would do very well,” Gasol said. “We had a very versatile team, and at the time, we had Kobe as probably the best in the league, and I was amongst the best in the league during those years.
“We had tremendous players that complemented and added a lot of talent. I feel like our teams would’ve done well against any team. Whether we would win or not, you could make those arguments, but I don't know that.
“I think every team plays when they play, and that's it. The results are there. That's it. Good or bad. But to compare from like the Bulls to the Lakers or the Celtics against the Warriors or the Heat against whatever it's fun talk, but I think any championship team would do well because the quality of the players and what they were able to accomplish.”
Our 10th-anniversary series will press on in the coming weeks with more interviews from that historic Lakers team. Along with Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher, we spoke with a lot of their teammates, coaches, and trainers about this special time in Los Angeles.
You can also read the first three parts of Pau Gasol’s exclusive interview with ClutchPoints here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. and Part 5. Pau talked jersey retirement, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James’ squad in L.A., Celtics rivalry, returning to the Lakers, and more.