The peak of Kobe Bryant's career maybe happened in the early 2000s, when he was winning numerous championships alongside Shaq in his younger days, but the run he put on the end of the decade is equally as impressive. He maybe didn't have Shaq for his second run, but Pau Gasol wasn't a shabby number two, as the Spaniard played a huge role in their three Finals trips and two championships. As soon as Pau arrived in the middle of the 2008 season, Kobe let him know what the ultimate goal is.
The perfect trade
The Lakers were stuck in mediocrity for years after the Shaq trade, and Kobe was wasting his prime years on first-round exits and playoff-less seasons. Being one foot outside of LA, new light shined on the horizon as the Lakers managed to pull off a trade many would consider a highway robbery at the time.
Pau Gasol was the newest Laker, with a bunch of role players headlined by Kwame Brown, two first-round picks, and draft right to Marc Gasol going to Memphis. It ended up being a win-win trade with Marc becoming a Grizzlies legend, while the Lakers finally brought Kobe the help he needed to compete again.
Brothers for life
Not everybody was sure that the fit was going to work, with many people labeling Gasol too soft for the big man position, especially considering he was next to such a demanding teammate like Kobe. But on the contrary, the two not only bonded on the court but became brothers for life.
While talking with JJ Redick on his podcast, Gasol revealed how Kobe welcomed him to Los Angeles by clearly stating what their ultimate goal is and proving how serious he is about it:
"I think he(Kobe) was excited from the beginning. He acknowledged as a smart man that he was that was his chance. That was gonna be his shot to try to win it again...from the very beginning, he acknowledged it: 'I'm very happy that you're here, let's go win a f****g title, let's go win this thing.'"
Pau Gasol, The Old Man and the Three
The Lakers now had their one-two punch in Kobe and Gasol, alongside a tremendous supporting cast of guys like Odom, Bynum, Fisher, etc. In the same season, Gasol got traded, the Lakers would make it to the Finals and lose to the Big 3 Celtics in six games, before going back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, showing how this was an absolute winner of a trade.
Kobe would climb to five rings, prove he can do it without Shaq, and cement himself amongst the greats of the game, but he couldn't have done it without Pau. Gasol fit in perfectly with Phil's triangle offense with his size and skill. That would make the Lakers a powerhouse for years again and create a bond beyond basketball between Kobe and Pau, who still often visit the Bryant family and show support for Vanessa and Kobe's daughters.