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Derek Fisher came up big over and over for Lakers, especially in crunch time of playoffs.
When asked about Derek Fisher's toughness and durability, former Lakers forward A.C. Green had this to say: "He's the iron man."
"He's the ultimate professional," Green said of Fisher. "He goes out there and does what he needs to do every single night. More importantly, he does it in practice and his pre-game rituals. He just knows how to prepare himself. That's really a lesson in life where you have to find a game plan."
No. 2 always had his own game plan, from the day he was drafted by the Lakers out of little-known Little Rock, Arkansas in 1996, the same year that Kobe Bryant came to L.A. The two became fast friends who loved to compete against each other in practice and greatly admired their respective work ethics.
Fisher has always had his detractors, especially in recent seasons as he slowed down and had trouble guarding slick, fast point guards. But those detractors need to look at the body of work D-Fish had with L.A. over the course of 13 seasons and realize that Bryant most likely would not have five championship rings without the inspirational former captain of the Lakers.
Every great team needs a leader, someone who acts as coach on the court and has the respect of his teammates. Whether it was during the early years, winning three consecutive titles with Shaq and Kobe or later winning two more with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Fisher always remained the stabilizing force among bigger stars with much bigger egos.
During those runs, it was Fisher who consistently came up with big plays, like the miraculous, 360-degree turn and shoot winner against the Spurs with .04 seconds on the clock in the 2004 playoffs. He'll be remembered for hustle plays, like the driving layup against the Celtics at Boston in the 2010 playoffs, where he was mauled but still made the key bucket and foul shot.
"A hustle play in a lot of ways symbolized who I was coming into this league, who I've tried to be my 16 years in and probably what I'll be remembered as going out," Fisher told the L.A. Times after coming up with the key play in a regular season win over Denver in 2011.
"I was a guy who was willing to do whatever it takes for his team to win. It doesn't look great all the time. I won't be as big of a name. But I'll always find a way to help my team in more times than not."
Derek Fisher's career stats do not jump off the page—8.6 points, 3.1 assists, and 40 percent from the field. Yet, D-Fish shot 37 percent from three point range (40 percent during 229 playoff games) and was the quintessential leader throughout a 16-year career.
Derek Fisher is a five-time champion and a winner on and off the court. His jersey should be retired.