Exclusive: Pau Gasol on what made back-to-back champion Lakers special
During the Los Angeles Lakers’ run of dominance between 2008 and 2010, forward Pau Gasol played a pivotal role in the team’s success. The team acquired Gasol in a blockbuster trade with the Memphis Grizzlies in February of 2008, and the team was off and running as a legitimate title contender once again.
Gasol proved to be the missing piece to the championship puzzle and the ideal teammate to help Kobe Bryant lead the Lakers back to prominence in the Western Conference.
Ultimately, the team won back-to-back titles with Gasol in Los Angeles, and as a part of our 10th-anniversary series about we spoke with two-time NBA champion about the squad that went to three straight NBA Finals and what made that team special.
“Different things, but it’s the strength of every individual and having two of the greatest people in Phil Jackson and Kobe as great leaders,” Gasol told ClutchPoints. “I feel like the mix of players and how we complemented each other. Everyone fulfilled their role at the highest level, and I think that’s what we strived for on our team.
“Phil did his part by bringing the best out of each other. Kobe did his part by demanding and pushing everyone to be at their best. Derek [Fisher] did his part by being that emotional and vocal leader. Incredible work ethic and how he was so determined at such an incredible level at crunch time. He felt so reliable and brought that toughness.
“Everyone, when you go down the line, Lamar [Odom] brought his versatility. Metta [World Peace] and Trevor [Ariza] brought the defense and toughness at their positions. Andrew [Bynum] brought his physicality, and I did my part as well.
“Everyone did their part when you go down the line even when you go to Sasha [Vujacic], Jordan Farmar, and Luke Walton. Even the guys that didn’t play like Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga. Those guys did their part at practice. Everybody did their part, and that’s why we accomplished what we accomplished as a team because we were all in sync and everyone fulfilled their role.”
Gasol, as expected, is as humble and considerate as they come when talking about his championship squads with the Lakers. He made sure to give credit to everyone involved when we asked him who on the team during this run didn’t get enough credit for the role they played on these championship teams.
“I guess you could make an argument that the main players get the most credit, and you could make an argument that they should,” Gasol said. “We don’t win without everybody else doing their part. I don’t know who got more or less credit.
“You can make assumptions, but I would acknowledge each and every one of those players, as I said in my previous answer. I would acknowledge everyone doing their part and staying locked in and pushing each other at practice. Pushing each other and bringing it every single game of the season, so you can end up at the top of the standings and have home-court advantage.
“It’s very likely we don’t win that series if we don’t have home-court advantage, right? Against Boston. Everyone doing their part. The coaching staff, not just Phil Jackson. Everyone on that coaching staff also added something. Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Kurt Rambis, and Jim Cleamons.
“Also, I feel the training staff and the strength coach also did their part. Chip Schaefer, great strength coach. He pushed me hard and worked with me to get my body stronger after the ’08 Finals. Alex McKechnie, Judy Seto, and Gary Vitti. Even Marco Nunez. All these guys deserve acknowledgment and obviously, ownership.
“You go down the line. Franchises are big and vast, and everyone has to do their best in order for the team to succeed at that level. I feel like those are the guys that most of the time, do not get appreciated or do not get enough credit when the team wins. It’s all about Kobe dominating or being the best, which he was or Pau being one of the best power forwards at the time.
“Everyone really contributed because in order for me to do my job at that level, those guys have to take care of me, and they have to do their job and push me to be better and push me to be disciplined, push me to get the work done. I would recognize those guys.”
Along with sharing his thoughts on what made these Lakers championship teams special and who deserves more credit for the team’s success, Gasol also opened up about the rivalry with the Boston Celtics and whether he thought the team would eventually face LeBron James in the NBA Finals.
We’ll dive into these topics in the next two parts of Gasol’s interview as part of our 10th-anniversary series on the Lakers’ back-to-back titles.
You can also read the first three parts of Pau Gasol’s exclusive interview with ClutchPoints here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Pau talked jersey retirement, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James’ squad in L.A., returning to the Lakers, and more.