Pau Gasol Shares 'Extremely Intense' Feelings of Missing Kobe Bryant: 'I Go Forward Knowing He's Watching'
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant
After the Los Angeles Lakers retiring Pau Gasol's jersey on Tuesday, the retired NBA star said the evening was "extremely intense" without his close friend, Kobe Bryant.
Gasol, 42, told The Athletic that his "emotions were riding extremely high" on Tuesday night during the ceremony at the Crypto.com Arena. "It was very intense, very overwhelming, very beautiful to receive such a huge honor, but with so many other emotional factors and triggers," he said.
"And clearly, Kobe's absence — but still strong presence," Gasol added. "All that just made it extremely intense."
Gasol, who won two championships with Kobe, told the NBA that their friendship was based in "love and appreciation for each other," and the two grew especially close post-retirement. "It even increased when we stopped playing. You had the competition, the teammates, the grind, all that was not happening once I left the Lakers and once he retired. And now we saw the truth, the true emotions, the genuine care and love for each other. That was us."
RELATED: Pau Gasol Tears Up as Lakers Retire His Jersey Next to Kobe Bryant's: 'I Love You, Brother'
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Gasol opened up about missing his close friend and how he continues to be there for Vanessa Bryant and her daughters. "Every step of the way, he's on my mind, in my heart, along with Gigi," Gasol said. "And he's going to be there forever. I go forward knowing he's watching."
Gasol explained that Kobe's family has become a part of his family over the years. "His family's my family, We'll be there all the way, through the good and bad times, loving each other and being there for each other. With all my heart," said Gasol.
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When the former Laker and wife Catherine McDonnell welcomed their first daughter, Elisabet, just eight months after the crash that killed Kobe and Gianna, Gasol and McDonnell chose to give their daughter the middle name "Gianna."
Gasol said the name was "a way to honor Gianna" and show "how much she means to us and our family," he told the NBA.
Gianna, who was a gifted basketball player, "was meant to be a superstar," Gasol says. "She was a mini-Kobe," he said. "She was going to rock this world. The way she was taken from us, so young, so abruptly, broke a lot of people's hearts. To me, she will always be a presence to my daughter."