06/21/2010 - 12:06
A Unique Laker Legacy
As a four-time world champion and owner of several of the most clutch shots in franchise history, Derek Fisher didn’t need to do anything to cement his legacy with the Lakers.
But this postseason, while leading the Lakers to their 16th title, No. 2 did just that numerous times, saving the Lakers and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
His biggest moment came in the biggest moment, when he hit a three pointer to bring the Lakers back even with the Celtics as time was slowly ticking away in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
D-Fish during the Lakers' parade Monday (Getty Images).
It was a shot that Celtics coach Doc Rivers called "the biggest single shot in the game." It was a shot that left Fish’s coach Phil Jackson, one typically parsimonious with praise, agape.
"The real play, that I thought was a play that kind of changed and gave us that renewed energy was Pau coming off the post and hitting Fisher, and Fisher hitting the 3-point shot to bring the game back to a tie."
It was a stupendous shot, but not the only standout moment for Fish in his fifth championship campaign. The Los Angeles Times came up with the top ten moments of this run for a 16th title and Fish was highlighted for some of his biggest moments of the postseason.
There was his play just a week before his Game 7 triple when No. 2 single handedly brought Boston to their knees, seizing Game 3 in Beantown by taking over the fourth quarter, with 11 points down the stretch and one decisive drive.
"It wasn't quite Tyus Edney," writes the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke, recalling the UCLA guard’s full court game winner in the NCAA tournament a ways back, "but it was close, Fisher dribbling the length of the court in Game 3 in Boston to score on a layup while being mauled by three Celtics. The three-point play with 48 seconds remaining gave the Lakers a seven-point lead in a 91-84 victor."
But that was only the second Game 3 that Fish, for whom things seem to always come in threes, took over. In the Western Conference Finals, his big trey in Game 3 against the Utah Jazz was a moment that showed both Fish’s basketball prowess and mental toughness, as Plaschke writes:
"Remember how spurned Utah Jazz fans directed a derisive and tasteless chant at Derek Fisher during the Lakers' first game in Salt Lake City this postseason? Remember how Fisher reacted? He hit the three-pointer with 28 seconds remaining that gave the Lakers a Game 3 lead they didn't lose in a 111-110 victory."
Three great playoff moments this year, all worth three points. Perhaps No. 2 should change his number.
THE MEANING OF FIVE
His fifth world championship that he claimed last week puts Derek in very elite company among the greats of the Lakers and the NBA.
It's also something that Derek, as a student and fan of the game long before his days in Purple and Gold, can truly appreciate, though it also left him near a loss for words.
Really it’s hard to think about and it’s hard to even fully understand for myself. I think it speaks to the fact that life doesn’t always go according to maybe what you think the way life is going to go. Growing up in Little Rock, I never envisioned being in this position five times. You know, I dreamt about playing college basketball at a big time level but never really fantasized about the NBA every day. I loved watching Magic, but I never saw myself being in Magic’s shoes, being in his position.
To be sitting here now after five championships is quite humbling, it’s surreal. I’m thankful. That’s the best way to put it."
Derek also knows he has plenty to be thankful for and in his post Game 7 press conference, he said a few words about his daughter and how, though these things might not mean a lot to her, how much she means to him in these times of joy and emotion.
"She was not here tonight, just for personal and safety reasons," Derek said. "We anticipated it would be a little bit crazy in here tonight, and the last time we won a championship here, we were stuck in the building until, I think, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Her bedtime is much earlier than that.
But you know, she’s not aware of the magnitude of what all this means, but she knows what daddy is up to. You know, she’s really the reason why I’m sitting here, and I owe her a lot. She’s going to definitely get some cake and cookies this weekend for sure."
While Fish may be most famous for his knack for the 3, M. Haubs of the NBA blog The Painted Area on ESPN's Truehoop network wonders if Derek's No. 2 jersey deserves to be part of the Purple and Gold pantheon that hangs from the rafters of the Staples Center.
"So, after winning five championships in 11 seasons with the Lakers, serving as the classy team leader and hitting some of the most memorable shots in franchise history, it's a no-brainer that Fish's #2 will be retired, right?"
Though his statistics don't jumpe off the page, the reason Fish deserves consideration for the honor is that he does what matters most better than anyone else. Winning titles.
"Of course, with all the intangibles and clutch shots, the key statistic for Derek Fisher is his five championships. Only five L.A. Lakers own that many rings; no one has won more of them, as a Laker."
To read more on the topic from The Painted Area, click here.
IN THE MIX FOR SIX?
Fish could eclipse that all-time Laker mark just next season if he remains in purple and gold and if the Lakers can three-peat for the second time in his career.
Derek is a free agent-to-be, but just about everyone thinks the Lakers need to bring back D-Fish, including a former LA coach.
"They need to keep Derek Fisher. His leadership is essential, on the court and behind the scenes," fromer Lakers and Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy told the LA Times. "His shooting is an obvious plus — he routinely makes shots in the fourth quarter that most guys not named Kobe Bryant might be hesitant to take — yet that's just one facet of what makes him such a valuable player."
The other, which everyone knows about, is that Fish commands respect from everyone on the team, and his opinion and word is as valued as any coach.
"Fisher has credibility in the locker room, and he's not the kind of guy who would have a problem delivering the bad news to Kobe if, say, he's trying to carry too much of the load himself," Dunleavy said. "As a coach, you need someone who can deliver a message."
In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live to celebrate the world championship with his teammates: Derek, Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, Josh Powell, Sasha Vujacic and DJ Mbenga, Bryant echoed that sentiment when prompted about Derek's impending free agency.
"He is, but he isn't," Kobe said. "It's really this simple. We wouldn't have one, even one of these championships had it not been for him. It's as simple as that."
That alone got Fish a raucous ovation from an appreciative crowd filled with Lakers fans.
Derek also got to talk about his situation, what caused him to leave Game 7 briefly and go to the locker room and his thought on the Celtics, while sharing some laughs with his teammates. Check out the clips from the Lakers state of post-championship bliss here.
According to Kevin Ding of the OC Register on his Twitter, Derek and Kobe will both meet with Lakers coach Phil Jackson and GM Mitch Kupchak on Wednesday for their yearly exit meetings. The rest of the team will be meeting with Jackson and Kupchak on Tuesday.
Countdown to ecstasy -- 10 postseason plays that made the Lakers champions (Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2010)
Mike Dunleavey: Lakers need to keep Derek Fisher (Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2010)
Lakers Win Championship #16: Fisher to the Rafters? Gasol to the Hall? (The Painted Area, June 17, 2010)
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