On the best days, here’s how Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol interact. They high-five each other. They rub each other’s heads. They express appreciation for their complementary styles.
On the worst days, here’s how Bryant and Gasol interact. Bryant questions Gasol’s aggressiveness. Gasol laments Bryant’s high-volume shooting coming at the expense of crisp ball movement. In their Game 5 loss to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals, they even argued.
But never had the two interacted this way. Bryant and Gasol posed in a photo Friday night moments before the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics wearing their unique garb. Bryant and Gasol stood side by side in outfits no one would ever see them wear at Staples Center. Bryant wore a controversial made-in-China Ralph Lauren uniform, including a navy blazer, white shirt, navy tie and a beret. Gasol wore a Bosco bright red jacket, white shirt, orange tie and a wide-brimmed hat. Together they made a Kodak moment that was later posted on Bryant’s Facebook page.
“Proud of mi hermano Pau,” read a message on Bryant’s Facebook page. “Being the flag bearer for your country is beyond an honor. This is us at the opening ceremony as we get set for our march toward the stadium and toward a possible showdown for the GOLD.”
Even with the two providing playful trash talking on who will win this year’s basketball gold medal, the tension that showed between Bryant and Gasol toward the end of the season had noticeably thawed.
Bryant told reporters, including The Times’ Mike Bresnahan, that Gasol needs to stay on the Lakers.
“He’s staying. If they want to get rid of him, they’ve got to go through me first,” Bryant said. “They can’t possibly. As long as I’m there, Pau should be there too.”
Gasol thanked Bryant for his comments via Twitter and added, “It’s a pleasure to play with you game after game.”
Bryant lauded Gasol as one of his favorite NBA players because of his intelligence. Gasol praised Bryant for his insatiable competitiveness.
The two have always shared admiration ever since the Lakers acquired Gasol from Memphis in 2008, leading to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two championships. But the two became frustrated at the end of last season. Gasol’s tentativeness on a critical jump shot became the flash point of the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the Thunder. Bryant’s repetitive one-on-one shooting often came at the expense of Gasol receiving looks inside.
But with the offseason giving them both time to heal, it appears that’s simmered.
Gasol appared humbled and energetic as Spain’s flag bearer. Bryant embodied the Olympic spirit by mingling with other U.S. athletes during the ceremony. And, of course, the two Laker teammates took a picture that serves as the perfect Olympic moment, both for their jovial spirits and the unique uniforms they wore.
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