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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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CORE FOUR ONCE MORE: Gasol’s jersey retirement gets the band back together

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When the Memphis Grizzlies announced earlier this season that they would retire Marc Gasol’s jersey, everyone knew it would be more than a one-night celebration. His older brother, Pau, and the rest of his family spent the week in town leading up to the ceremony.

Marc was spotted all over social media, with fans snapping selfies with him at various locations. The Gasols made this a family trip, with the two families spending time at Shelby Farms. Pau said before the game that they plan to do this more often because of the bond their family has with the city of Memphis.

After the first timeout of the game, a video presentation featuring messages from Mike Conley and Lionel Hollins was played. Gasol was then introduced on the video monitor, and the crowd gave him a nice ovation.

Gasol played 11 seasons with the Grizzlies (2008-2019) and helped guide the franchise to seven consecutive playoff appearances, including the club’s first postseason victory in 2011 (as a No. 8 seed against the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs) and a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. A three-time All-Star, Gasol was named the 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and selected to the 2014-15 All-NBA First Team.

β€œMarc has made a tremendous impact on both the Grizzlies and the Memphis community. His tenacity and skill helped raise the franchise to new heights,” said Robert Pera, owner of the Grizzlies in a statement. “I am pleased to honor Marc by having his #33 permanently raised in the rafters of FedExForum. Thank you, Marc, for all you have done.”

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Grizzlies earlier in the evening, 116-96. Current 76ers Coach Nick Nurse was head coach on the 2019 NBA Championship Toronto Raptors team where Gasol won his only championship.

β€œIt was really cool when I saw the announcement that they were retiring his jersey. I looked down and saw we were here, I immediately hit him on WhatsApp and congratulated him and said, ‘Man, it’s amazing because we’re going to be there. I’m so happy.’

“He was obviously a huge part of our championship team in Toronto. It seems like I’ve coached against him for almost his whole career because I was coaching a national team over there. It seemed like we were always playing Spain for something, like warm-up games or Euro Cup or whatever they were, qualifiers here and there, European Championships, even the Olympics.”

Current Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins never got to coach Gasol, but had nothing but praise for Big Spain.

β€œIt’s so meaningful. It’s an individual recognition but so cool to hear that he’s going to have so many people, especially former teammates, be a part of it. That just speaks volumes to who Marc Gasol is. He was all about helping the team get better. He made others better around him. Obviously, I was on the other side competing against him. He was a handful, an ultimate competitor.”

Mike Conley flew in after playing last night and will fly out after the event to join his current team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, in Los Angeles.

β€œI would not have missed this for anything in the world,” Conley said. “This guy deserves everything he gets. I am super excited for him.”

Many former teammates and coaches of Gasol were in attendance, including Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Quincy Pondexter, Dave Joerger, his brother Pau Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph. It was the first time the Core Four have been in FedExForum together since the 2017-18 season.

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