L.A. Lakers: Would Pau Gasol Be a Top-5 Power Forward Without Kobe Bryant?

Some people love to point out that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant owes much of his success over the past three seasons to the Lakers' ability to acquire forward Pau Gasol early in 2008.

But many of those same people fail to mention the equal effect Bryant has had on the career fortunes of Gasol.

Gasol was a great player as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, and he deserves all the respect in the world for leading that franchise to the playoffs three consecutive times during the 2004-06 seasons.

Former Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown called Gasol one of the most-skilled power forwards he had ever seen, and he went on to say that Gasol could possibly be the game's greatest power forward if he ever became interested in that goal.

Gasol has always faced questions about his toughness, but during his tenure in Memphis desire was also an issue, but that may be because basketball was not the only thing that captured his attention.

Education was always a main priority for Gasol's parents, and he was an accomplished scholar long before he was a gifted basketball player.

In fact Gasol's first career choice was to be a physician, and he still regularly volunteers at hospitals in and around the Los Angeles area.

Gasol eventually discovered his physical gifts, and his intellignce made him one of the more cerebral players in the NBA, but his game lacked focus.

The Lakers' decison to acquire Gasol after center Andrew Bynum was a major turning point in his career, and Bryant embraced Gasol's arrival and helped him find his purpose.

Some observers say that Gasol's acquisition saved Bryant's career, but in truth the Lakers' situation at the time of Bynum's injury was not as dire as some would have you believe.

Bryant did make numerous threats and demands to be traded after the 2007 season, but there is a reason that he quieted down and signed his contract exte...

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