After Shaq departed from the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2004, following their historic run together, Kobe had to wait few years for his team to acquire him a new partner with whom he would go on a championship quest. In 2008. the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, a move that will prove to be a start of a new championship era in Los Angeles. The two led the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals from 2008 to 2010, winning back-to-back NBA titles.
Gasol was always a perfect Robin to Kobe’s Batman. He was very versatile and was the ideal fit in Phil Jackson‘s triangle offense. More importantly, he had that winning mentality that Kobe as a leader required. Bryant was always the vocal leader on and off the floor, having an unmatched competitive drive and hunger for winning. Gasol, on the other hand, needed a little push to fire the same type of competitiveness inside of him. Kobe found a unique way to do it.
Gasol talked to Spanish publication La Resistencia about how Bryant gave him the nickname “Pablo”, after a notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Kobe didn’t draw any comparisons between the two, but just wanted to push the similar relentlessness out of Gasol and induce the same killer mentality.
“I am a calm, leisurely person-the peacemaker. Kobe always tried to get my inner fire out, and he called me Pablo because of Pablo Escobar. Not because he was a drug trafficker, but because of that murderous instinct. To help me get that aggressiveness, Kobe compared me to him. He wanted to spark the spark of his peers’ competitive ability. I wanted to take out the winning claw that he had in everyone. When we met the 2010 Celtics, we were prepared for that battle. He understood it as such and helped me to grow my level in those days.”Pau Gasol
Kobe’s methods paid dividends. It’ not easy to find players who are as fired up as Kobe was on the floor. Pau was that, especially during those incredible clashes with the Celtics. He was fierce and relentless, going up against one of the best power forwards the league has ever seen in Kevin Garnett. It seemed like nobody wanted to mess with Pablo. That sounds familiar.