Updated 01:41 PM EDT, Tue, Oct 19, 2021

Spanish Bigman Pau Gasol Wasn't Fully Appreciated in LA, Says Kobe Bryant

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The Chicago Bulls visited the Staples Center this week to play the Los Angeles Lakers. The game was a reunion of sorts for former teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Bryant was his usual ferocious self on the court. But before the game, the five-time NBA champion spoke candidly about the seven-foot Spaniard's tenure with the Lakers.

Bryant felt the city of Los Angeles took the bigman for granted, especially when Mike D'Antoni began coaching for the Lakers in 2012.

SB Nation noted that D'Antoni's small-ball style of play hindered Gasol from producing his usual all-star caliber numbers. The system was such a mismatch for Gasol that D'Antoni had no other option than to diminish the Spaniard's role on the team.

Bryant told ESPN that fans were so focused on Gasol's subpar stat line that they failed to notice what was really behind it all.

"I think the city of L.A. didn't really appreciate what he did and what we had," said the 37-year old NBA veteran. "And so as a consequence, everybody kind of fell in line with the [former Lakers coach] Mike D'Antoni rhetoric of small ball and all this other bullshit. For a guy that has two championships to be treated that way, you don't do that, man."'

In the three year following Shaquille O'Neal's departure from the team, the Lakers failed to make the second round of the playoffs all three times, per NBA.com. All that changed when Gasol was added to the squad in 2007. The core nucleus of Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum went on to win back-to-back league championships in 2009 and 2010.

Things started to spiral downward for the Lakers after they got swept by the eventual 2011 NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks, in the second round of the playoffs. Following the defeat, Phil Jackson announced his retirement, while toxic signings made during the subsequent years stunted the team's short-term success.

In his recent interview with ESPN, Bryant recalled the countless times he defended Gasol from constant trade rumors as well as malicious off-the-court speculations.

"I thought that it was really silly and I felt bad for him going through all that stuff," said Bryant. "That's why I defended him so much."

Gasol finally left the Laker in the summer of 2014. The then 33-year old free agent signed a three-year, $22-million contract with the Chicago Bulls, where he teamed up with Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler.

Fansided reported that the Bulls are impressed with the Spaniards play and want to re-sign him when his contract expires at the end of next season. The team is heavily relying on Gasol in the paint, as starting center Joakim Noah is still out with a left shoulder injury.

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