Europe – The final will oppose this Sunday the FC Barcelona of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic to Anadolu Efes Istanbul of Rodrigue Beaubois.
Pau Gasol wanted to complete the circle by ending his career in Barcelona after 18 seasons in the NBA, where everything began for him. The icing on the cake, the former Lakers inside will be able to play his first Euroleague final at the age of 40, three months after his return to Catalonia.
Just before the biggest basketball meeting on the European continent against the Anadolu Efes of the Beaubois/Moerman duo, Pau Gasol recalled the impact that his former teammate Kobe Bryant could have on his team when the big moments were approaching.
« Kobe gave it his all as much as he could. He was himself until the very last game. I try to be myself, but at the same time do what I have to do, cheer on my coach and my teammates. That’s all I’m trying to do here, » he explained. « He was one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest to me. Hopefully, he’ll be watching.
Kobe Bryant sometimes shook his former teammate, in an effort to get the most out of him. The « Black Mamba » simply knew how important his interior could be in the Lakers’ system. He did well, because after a first setback in the NBA Finals against the Celtics in 2008, the tandem won two titles, in 2009 against the Magic and in 2010 in their revenge against the Celtics.
« We played three finals together. Kobe didn’t talk much. He just brought the mindset, the aggressiveness and the leadership on the court, » he added. « It’s a different situation today. We all know what we’re playing for. Both teams have worked hard to get here and have earned the chance to play this final. It’s just a matter of battling and playing better than the opponent. That’s what we’re going to try to do.