There’s no denying that Pau Gasol is the late Kobe Bryant’s favorite teammate of all time. The dynamic duo won back-to-back titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010 and has forged a lifetime bond since becoming teammates in ’08.
That close-knit friendship extended outside the basketball court, as Gasol has pretty much become an honorary member of the Bryant household. He also established a close relationship to Kobe’s wife Vanessa and became “Uncle Pau” to Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri.
Bryant and Gasol spoke Spanish to confuse defenders on the court and likely spoke more off of it during dozens of get-togethers on their personal time. The pair continued to be best of friends even after the latter’s stint in LA ended in 2014. They grabbed dinner together each time they were in the same city.
Understandably, Gasol was one of the millions of people across the world who mourned over the shocking passing of Kobe, Gianna, and 7 others who perished in a tragic helicopter crash last January.
you'll always be in my heart… my big brother… 💛 pic.twitter.com/ytJ2JDKNaB
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) January 28, 2020
Gasol admitted that he didn’t speak to anyone for days following news of Bryant’s untimely demise. He is still coming to grips with the reality of Kobe’s death and has described the whole incident as a haunting nightmare.
I will be heartbroken for a long time, but I will forever be thankful for having had shared so much together. You inspired me and pushed me to be a better version of myself everyday. As you have done with many others.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) January 30, 2020
While Kobe’s death hurt Pau deeply, he couldn’t fathom what Vanessa was going through at the time. The seven-foot Spaniard stuck around made sure he was there for the Bryant family through it all.
Vanessa has been with Kobe since she was just 17 years old, and Gasol understood just how special their marital bond was. Being the thoughtful friend that he is, Pau remembered Kobe and Vanessa’s wedding anniversary last April and sent out flowers.
Pau Gasol and his wife sent Vanessa Bryant flowers for her and Kobe's anniversary 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/blSKblZpLG
— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) April 19, 2020
Gasol looked up to Bryant as his “big brother” but he also made sure that Gianna’s memory will also never be forgotten.
Pau and his wife Catherine McDonell don’t have children of their own just yet, but also served as parental figures to Bryant’s four beautiful daughters.
The Gasols commemorated what would have been Gigi’s 14th birthday last May 2, sending a cake in honor of the Mambacita.
.@paugasol and his wife, Cat, sent the Bryant family a cake for Gigi's 14th birthday 💛💜
(via Vanessa Bryant/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/sEyHl1FLtK
— ESPN (@espn) May 1, 2020
Since he also resides in California, Gasol watched several of Gianna’s high school basketball games and saw firsthand what a bright future she had ahead of her. He also witnessed what a sweet and adoring child Gianna was to her parents and siblings.
Pau gave her a fitting tribute with the hashtags #PlayGigisWay and #LeadWithKindness, along with a photo of him and his wife holding hands and wearing red bracelets with Kobe and Gigi’s names.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) May 2, 2020
Gasol turned 40 years old last Tuesday, and Vanessa perfectly captured how he continues to be involved with Bryant’s girls.
She posted a touching birthday message to Pau, including several heartwarming photos of him with Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
“Happy 40th birthday uncle Pau! We ❤️you. Love, The Bryant Girls. I know Kobe would say,’Happy 40th birthday Pablo! Love you, Hermano,” she wrote.
Pau Gasol spending time with Kobe's daughters is so heartwarming.
(via vanessabryant/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/bzuOjx0vjQ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 7, 2020
Pau Gasol will no doubt go down as of the best international players to step foot in the NBA. While his accomplishments on the hardwood are commendable, it’s his character as a person and a friend that stands out the most. Even with Kobe gone, he made a lifelong commitment by continuing to look out for Bryant’s family.
Bryant’s three children are indeed blessed that they still have “Uncle Pau” around who comes by from time to time and serve as a father figure.