Pau Gasol on Being a Proud Girl Dad, Supporting Vanessa Bryant and Her Daughters

"[Kobe] used to tell me, 'I'll send you my daughters so you can teach them about culture, awareness, things. And you send me your sons and I'll teach them to be tough, to fight, to work and go for it,' " Pau Gasol recalls

Pau Gasol Documentary Episode 2
Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Pau Gasol's daughter has changed his world.

The retired athlete, 41, lets audiences into his personal life with his upcoming documentary Pau Gasol: It's About the Journey. The four-episode project captures his decorated basketball career, both in the NBA and internationally, but also — for the first time — viewers get to see an intimate look at Gasol as a family man.

His introduction to fatherhood was in September 2020 with the birth of his first child Elisabet Gianna, whose middle name is a tribute to close friend and former teammate Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The father-daughter pair died tragically in January 2020, along with seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

"Obviously, the way the accident, the tragedy, [it] was an incredibly hard hit for a lot of people, especially for the ones that love Kobe and Gigi, and obviously, the family and friends of all the seven other victims," Gasol tells PEOPLE.

"It was hard, but while we were shooting and the camera crews were, it was like, that happened. And I also chose to express how I felt in that moment and how we were in Barcelona and we packed and we said, 'All right, let's go to L.A. We just feel like we need to be close to Vanessa and the girls and the city of L.A. and be there for whatever is needed.' That's what we did," he says.

Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Pau Gasol Documentary Episode 1
Amazon Prime Video

In the documentary, Gasol tearfully speaks to a camera and records his emotions three days after he lost Kobe, 41, and Gianna.

"He used to tell me, 'I'll send you my daughters so you can teach them about culture, awareness, things. And you send me your sons and I'll teach them to be tough, to fight, to work and go for it.' Well, I'll try to be there for his daughters," Gasol says in footage from Jan. 29, 2020.

"The eldest, Natalia, is practically a woman, and his two little girls had practically no chance to get to know him. It's a very tough moment to come to grips with, to absorb, to accept," he says with tears running down his face as he speaks about Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and 2-year-old Capri.

Eight months later, Gasol and his wife Cat welcomed their baby girl. Along with the announcement of their first child's birth, the couple shared the news about her middle name and that Kobe's widow Vanessa Bryant was chosen as godmother.

"When we told her about the middle name, Pau and I sat down together we told her over FaceTime because of COVID we couldn't be around each other as much. ... She was super happy, I think she actually started crying a little bit. I think she was honored," Cat recalls in the documentary.

Speaking with PEOPLE, the dad of one says he will forever miss Kobe, whom he looked up to as the older brother he always wanted.

"It's part of the journey. That's something horrible that we wish never happened. I miss him terribly, but it's part of life and it's hard, but you got to keep going," he shares as he repeats what Kobe taught him.

"Put one footstep in front of the other with a smile on your face, knowing that some days you're not going to have that smile on your face and there are going to be some hard days. But that's okay. That's part of the journey," he says.

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Pau Gasol- Ellie 
Pau Gasol/Instagram

These days, Gasol is enjoying his retirement from basketball and spending quality time with his loved ones, including the Bryant family. He's also relishing first-time parenthood and is excited to add to his brood.

"I've enjoyed our baby girl so much. Ellie is incredible and we are looking forward to expanding our family. We'll see what number it ends up being, so one at a time, because you don't realize the amount of work and dedication that a kid requires until you actually have it," he tells PEOPLE.

"It sounds really all good theoretically, but you have to be ... you're responsible for a human being," he says of raising a child. "I like to be present with my children as much as I can, but I also want to do a lot of things because I have opportunities to do exceptional things. Finding that balance is going to be always the key to being able to be present and having a healthy family life and then also pursue ambitious goals outside of a family."

Pau Gasol: It's About the Journey premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Nov. 12.

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