Los Angeles Lakers: The Ballad of Derek Fisher and the End of a Dynasty
Wednesday, June 26, 1996. This is the day where the foundations for the best team in the post-Michael Jordan era of the NBA were laid.
On this day, the Los Angeles Lakers built the backcourt that would lead them to five NBA championships after the turn of the century.
The Lakers, in one of the most memorable trades in NBA history, traded Yugoslavian center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the 13th overall pick. With that 13th pick, they selected a Philadelphia high school guard named Kobe Bryant, who when his career comes to a close, will go down as one of the five best players of all time.
Later in the draft, the Lakers selected Derek Fisher with their 26th pick and acquired the two guards that would start in each of their five most recent NBA championships.
While Bryant will be an elite player until the day that his numerous injuries to his hands and knees tell him that he can't play anymore (and after watching Kobe for so many years, he will probably play for a few years after that also), it has become apparent that Fisher's days as the Lakers point guard are nearing their end.
Fisher, a cerebral but not insanely athletic point guard, was the perfect fit to quarterback coach Phil Jackson's complicated triangle offence. Fisher proved to be a perfect mediator between Kobe and center Shaquille O'Neal's heated personalities, uniting their differences under the common goal to win NBA championships.
While never a star (he never averaged more than 11.5 points and 4.4 assists as a Laker), Fisher provided when his team needed him most, playing tough defence down the stretch and hitting many clutch shots when needed. Fisher is a team leader, and one of the game's most dedicated players, serving as an executive for the players union during this past lockout.
Fisher will probably be most remembered for his shot in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals.
After Tim Duncan scored to put the San Antonio Spurs up 73-72, Fisher took the inbound and launched a three-point shot that won the game and immediately sprinting to the dressing room, hoping to leave the arena before the officials could check instant replay. The Lakers went on to win the series, but fell to Detroit in the NBA Finals.
Fisher is now 37 years old, practically geriatric by NBA standards. It is clear that the Lakers need an upgrade at point guard should they want to win another championship this season.
The Lakers have lost 16 games to this point this season. Of those 16 losses, 11 have come against teams with younger, quicker point guards who had good performances against the still hard-working but slowing down Fisher.
While Fisher will not be a Hall of Fame player or have his number retired by the Lakers, the five championships that he won, along with his reputation as one of the best gentlemen in basketball, will ensure that his legacy as a Laker will never be forgotten.
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