They’re to the right of the banners they helped earn, the numbers of some of basketball’s most dominant big men to ever play in this league.
George Mikan’s No. 99 is two spots to the left of Wilt Chamberlain’s No. 13. One row directly below that is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s No. 33. Below that and to the left is Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34.
And Tuesday, after helping the Lakers win a pair of championships, the curtain dropped on Pau Gasol’s No. 16. Fittingly, it’ll live directly on the right of Kobe Bryant’s No. 24.
As he watched the unveiling, Gasol shook his head and wiped tears from his eyes.
“To the city of L.A., to Lakers nation, I love you, I love you deeply,” Gasol said from midcourt. ”I love you forever, thank you for making me feel so special, it’s been an honor, it truly has.
The festivities surrounding the game with the Memphis Grizzlies were full of emotional trips to the Lakers’ past, moments that would’ve been impossible without Gasol’s presence alongside Bryant.
The present? That rests on the player the Lakers have counted on to be next in line among their lineage of giants.
Fans chanted “M-V-P” as Anthony Davis walked to the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter, one minute before he and the Lakers finished off the Grizzlies 112-103.
“I actually told Pau, I want to be up there one day as well,” 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’ tip-in iced the game in the final seconds, finishing off a 30-point, 22-rebound performance.
Asked for his thoughts on Davis, coach Darvin Ham drew inspiration from the rafters.
“Wilt?” Ham joked. “…Full-blow Wilt Davis. He’s playing like a monster.”
In the first quarter, Davis looked every bit the part of one of the team’s all-time greats, dominating every inch of the court in the way that made him one of the NBA’s top two-way talents.
Before he checked out with 30 seconds left in the quarter, he’d already scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, easily on his way to another double-double.
It was another moment of dominance, the kind that’s been happening more and more at a time when his team needs it most.
LeBron James remains injured and D’Angelo Russell, the natural next-in-line to pick up the slack, still is working toward a return.
Davis was forced out of the game with an inadvertent right hook from Memphis rookie David Roddy, the left side of his nose bleeding while he went to the locker room to get treated.
Without him on the court, the Lakers struggled, the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies playing with plenty of fight. All-Star Jaren Jackson Jr. lived in the paint and at the line and Memphis pushed ahead by as many as six.
But in the fourth quarter as the Lakers pulled back ahead, Davis again was in the spotlight. He ran the floor and scored, he sank free throws and hit jumpers. And on one play that electrified the crowd, he grabbed a rebound over Jackson, led the fastbreak 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 coming soon. Russell was upgraded to questionable Monday but ruled out prior to Tuesday’s game. He underwent a full-speed workout before the game with Lakers coaches and could be on track for a return Friday against Toronto.
That could be a reason for celebration. Tuesday, though, belonged to Gasol.
After a private pregame ceremony, Gasol spoke to the media from the same room he sat in following the Lakers’ 2010 NBA championship.
“Tonight, it just — the anticipation, excitement, the honor received, it’s so big to me that it’s gonna be really hard to take in,” Gasol said. “I have to keep reminding myself 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 who have followed you and joined you and been next to you on your journey.”
From there, he was honored with a pair of videos during the second quarter. The first, a highlight compilation of his career, ended with a standing ovation for a teary-eyed Gasol. The second video included Phil Jackson and former teammates Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher and Metta Sandiford-Artest.
At halftime, after the Lakers unveiled his No. 16 next to Bryant’s No.24, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and Vanessa Bryant joined Gasol’s family on the court for the official ceremony.
“It’s something very special,” Gasol said before the game.
Tuesday, it was. And so was Davis.