Vanessa Bryant Goes to Lakers' Arena for the First Time Since Kobe's Memorial to Honor Pau Gasol

Vanessa was in attendance as Gasol, the legendary Laker and longtime teammate of Kobe's, had his No. 16 jersey retired

Vanessa Bryant

For the first time since Feb. 24, 2020, the day of Kobe and Gianna Bryant's memorial service, Vanessa Bryant walked on the court at the Lakers' arena, this time to honor her late husband's close friend and teammate Pau Gasol as the team retired his No. 16 jersey.

In Tuesday's ceremony, the Los Angeles Lakers owners and players talked about Gasol's legacy on the team — from his two NBA championships and multiple All-Star Game appearances — and lifted his number to the rafters.

Gasol, 42, was a close friend of Kobe's and has stood by Vanessa, 40, and her daughters — Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3 — since Kobe and Gianna died in a helicopter crash along with seven others on January 26, 2020.

Vanessa Bryant

Talking to reporters after arriving at the arena on Tuesday, he talked candidly about his time on the court with Kobe.

In a clip shared on the NBA's Twitter account, he shared: "He definitely inspired me and showed me what it took to be the best player that you could be. The work ethic, the dedication, the mindset going into it. He challenged me to be better with his actions and with his work. He was very intentional with his actions."

Vanessa Bryant

Ahead of the ceremony, Gasol also talked about how he would not be in this position without Kobe and would be thinking of him throughout the night.

"It's impossible [to separate]," Gasol said, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "It's inevitable. I don't know how. ... My number goes up there, in big reason, because of him."

"And also how he made me better, how he made us better, how he led us in those runs, and the effect that he had. And then obviously not having him here with us, it's tough."

Vanessa Bryant

Vanessa had not been back to the Los Angeles arena — then called the Staples Center and now Arena — since Kobe and Gianna's memorial service. She delivered a heartbreaking eulogy to her husband and their 13-year-old daughter that day.

"They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated toward them. They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life. They were so full of joy and adventure," Vanessa told the packed arena.

"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together," said Vanessa before telling her late husband: "Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nani, B.B. and Koko. We're still the best team. May you both rest in peace and have fun in Heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy."

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