To the right of the banners they helped win are the numbers of some of basketball’s most dominant big men to ever play in this league.
99 George Mikan is two places to the left of 13 Wilt Chamberlain. One row directly below is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s number 33. Below and to the left is Shaquille O’Neal’s number 34.
And on Tuesday, after helping the Lakers win a pair of championships, the curtain fell on No. 16 Pau Gasol. Fittingly, he will live directly to the right of Kobe Bryant’s No. 24.
As he watched the opening, Gasol shook his head and wiped the tears from his eyes.
“To the city of Los Angeles, to the Laker nation, I love you, I love you dearly,” Gasol said from midcourt. “I love you forever, thank you for making me feel so special, it has been an honor, it really has been.
“Thank you so much.”
The festivities surrounding the game with the Memphis Grizzlies were filled with emotional journeys into the Lakers’ past, moments that would have been impossible without Gasol’s presence alongside Bryant.
The present? That depends on the player the Lakers have counted on to be next in line among their lineage of giants.
The fans chanted “MVP” as Anthony Davis walked to the free throw line late in the fourth quarter, a minute before he and the Lakers. finished off the Grizzlies 112-103.
“I actually told Pau that I want to be there one day too,” Davis said. “…I want to be in that category, that group.”
The Lakers have sole possession of ninth place in the Western Conference and are two games under .500.
Davis’ bunt iced the game in the final seconds, capping off a 30-point, 22-rebound performance.
When asked what he thought of Davis, coach Darvin Ham was inspired by the beams.
“Wither?” Ham joked. “…Full-fledged Wilt Davis. He is playing like a monster”.
In the first quarter, Davis looked like one of the team’s all-time greats, commanding every inch of the court in a way that made him one of the best two-way talents in the NBA.
Before leaving with 30 seconds remaining in the quarter, he had already scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, easily setting himself up for another double-double.
It was another moment of dominance, the kind that has increasingly been happening at a time when his team needs him most.
LeBron James remains injured and D’Angelo Russell, the next natural in line to take over, is still working his way back.
Davis was forced out of the game with an unintentional right hook from Memphis rookie David Roddy, with the left side of his nose bleeding as he went to the locker room for treatment.
Without him on the court, the Lakers struggled, the Grizzlies without Ja Morant played with a lot of fight. All-Star Jaren Jackson Jr. lived in the paint and on the line and Memphis advanced by as many as six.
But in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers fell back, Davis was back in the spotlight. He ran down the court and scored, made free throws and jumpers. And in a play that electrified the crowd, he grabbed a rebound on Jackson, led the fast break and found Rui Hachimura for a basket.
Hachimura and Austin Reaves each scored 17 off the Lakers’ bench and Dennis Schroder added 17 and nine assists as the Lakers won for the sixth time in their last eight games.
Help could be here soon. Russell was promoted to questionable on Monday but ruled out before Tuesday’s game. He underwent full-speed training before the game with the Lakers’ coaches and could be on track to return Friday against Toronto.
That could be a cause for celebration. On Tuesday, however, it belonged to Gasol.
After a private pregame ceremony, Gasol spoke to the media from the same room he sat in after the Lakers’ 2010 NBA championship.
“Tonight, just the anticipation, the excitement, the honor received, it’s so great for me that it’s going to be very difficult to take,” Gasol said. “I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a celebration, it’s great, it’s lovely. It’s amazing that you can experience this in your life and have so many people around you who have followed you, joined you and stood by your side on your journey.”
From there, he was honored with a couple of videos during the second quarter. The first, a compilation of highlights from his career, ended with a standing ovation for a teary-eyed Gasol. The second video included Phil Jackson and his former teammates Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher and Metta Sandiford-Artest.
At halftime, after the Lakers unveiled his number 16 alongside Bryant’s number 24, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and Vanessa Bryant joined the Gasol family on court for the official ceremony.
“It’s something very special,” Gasol said before the game.
Tuesday, it was. And also Davis.