Kobe Bryant may have nation-wide recognition as the NBA’s most clutch player, but in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, he was not the go-to guy down the stretch.
It was a fish called Derek.
Derek Fisher, the much maligned point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, came through with 11 points in the last nine minutes of their 91-84 victory in Boston. Throughout the playoffs, he’s been labeled slow, old, ineffective, and ready to retire.
But there’s one label that trumps them all: clutch.
Many media members were amazed by D-Fish’s performance Tuesday, but the Laker faithful knew he had it in him. Jerry West, Robert Horry, and Bryant are other members of the purple and gold known to have the clutch gene. Fisher shares that DNA, and with his play as of late, he can have the spotlight.
But only for a little. The Black Mamba can’t wait more than a day.
Fisher has hit many big shots in his career, especially in the playoffs. So in honor of the Little Rock, Ark. native’s effort to give the Lakers a 2-1 lead over the Celtics, we shall relive the best moments in Fish history.
No actual fish were hurt in the making of this slideshow.
If you watched the Lakers at all this postseason, you have seen the montage of Bryant’s seven game-winners in 2009-2010.
The best of that bunch is clearly when he opened his own branch at USBank over Dwyane Wade at the buzzer.
But rewind the tape five seconds, and there’s the real hero, with none of the glory.
The Lakers were down four with less than ten seconds to go. They inbound the ball to Pau Gasol, who watches Kobe play decoy and draw two defenders. Gasol hits Fisher, who puts up a three with Mario Chalmers right in his grill.
Chalmers, welcome to Derek’s barbeque. He's about to cook you like George Foreman.
Kobe will always get the credit for winning the game, but if Fisher misses his shot, the Lakers have no chance. By the time anyone could have gathered the rebound and went up again, the game would have likely been over.
However, the only reason this doesn’t make the Top 5 is because it was a regular season game, against the lowly Heat.
Yes, being the fifth seed in the East is lowly.
So is having only one player on your team worth anything.
Harry Potter must have lent Fisher his invisibility cloak, because the point guard’s biggest shots come in games where it seems like he wasn’t even there.
Ron Artest and Pau Gasol each had their game-winners in this postseason, which were ironically both off of Bryant’s misses. And while Fisher’s shot did not win the game, it was every bit as important.
In Game 3 of the Western Conference Semis in Utah, Kobe brought the ball up into a screen by Pau Gasol. He drew Deron William off Fish, and hit him at the wing with 28 seconds left for a three.
Kyle Korver clearly doesn’t hear Mark Jackson announce basketball games on ABC. His number one lesson?
Hand down, man down.
But this shot kept getting overshadowed. Kobe’s three the possession before, Artest’ air-headed inbound pass, and Williams and Wesley Matthews’ misses at the buzzer all made the ESPN highlight reel.
Fisher, on the other hand, got as much as attention as a red headed stepchild.
If No. 2 misses this shot, the Lakers would have had to foul and hope for another shot. So shame on ESPN for its lack of coverage of Fisher’s heroics in a pivotal spot. The win ended up sucking the life out of the Jazz, allowing for the sweep.
Derek Fisher’s new nickname? The Hoover.
Just a month after his clutch shot in Utah, Fisher was at it again, this time against the hated Celtics.
I’m sure he made fellow Laker, Jerry "Mr. Clutch" West, very proud.
The man who, after Game 2 of the Finals, was cast aside for his inability to contribute defensively, decided to put on a “Logo-esque” show on the other end of the floor. The Lakers thought their hopes were dashed when they watched Kobe use 29 attempts to get his 29 points.
No Kobe? No Problem.
Fish came into the fourth quarter only 1-for-5, but made 5-of-7 in the final six minutes for 11 points. He had numerous jumpers, using Bryant as a decoy and screener to get open. It took the Celtics way too long to realize that Kobe was a trap.
Unlike Admiral Ackbar.
But the critical play was with 50 seconds left, when Fisher rebounded on one end, went coast-to-coast, and got a three-point play while being assaulted by three C’s. He took it at Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the 35-year-old veteran wound up on top with the straw that broke the camel’s back.
And when Davis is the camel, it’s a pretty big back.
Thankfully, Fisher got his time in the sun with this performance, since it was in the Finals. His tears during post game interviews showed how much effort he had put in, and that kind of gratitude and emotion is something missing from many athletes today.
Famously known as the “Hit-and-Run,” Fisher delivered a miracle in San Antonio that will be remembered as one of the biggest shots in Lakers' history.
The name isn’t great, but the shot definitely is.
With the series tied at 2-2, the Spurs went up with .4 seconds left on a Tim Duncan fade-away 20-footer over Shaquille O’Neal. The city of San Antonio erupted, thinking they had 3-2 lead in the bag.
Have you ever seen a fish in a bag? Apparently, they don’t like it.
Los Angeles had four Hall of Famers in their lineup with Bryant, Shaq, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton all trying to get to the NBA Finals. But Fisher, who had been relegated to a bench role, provided the 74-73 road victory.
Watching this from home made me go from tears to running around my house screaming. My dad told me to stop being Pelé for a minute to watch the review.
Payton inbounded to Fisher, who was running towards the sideline, turned around in midair, and flung the ball at the hoop. He had Manu Ginobili riding him like Seabiscuit, but it didn’t matter.
Al Michaels only comments?
“They get it in to Fisher.” Long Pause. “He Scores!”
And quite frankly, that’s all you need.
People might wonder why this isn’t higher on the list. It’s hard to pick between these top three, but this falls to the top dogs because it wasn’t in the Finals, and it was mostly lucky.
Sorry Fish, but if you are out practicing that shot, then you need a new trainer.
This play couldn’t have been actually designed for Fisher. No chance. Down three with less than 10 ticks left is KB24 time.
Yeah, Fisher was having none of that. But Jameer Nelson was.
In one of the most ridiculous defensive strategies since France’s in World War II, Nelson found it okay to be about six feet off of Fisher while the Lakers trailed by three with five seconds to go.
Jeff Van Gundy said it best on ABC's broadcast immediately after the shot: “What is Jameer Nelson thinking [the Lakers] are going to do?”
Jameer’s answer? I prefer the view of a rainbow from a little further away.
But back to Fish. He drains the shot to send the game into overtime. And in the extra session, with 31.3 seconds left, he hits another three that ends up giving the Lakers the lead for good in Game 4 of the 2009 NBA Finals.
His only reaction? A big, fat smile to the crowd that would make cartoon characters jealous.
Had he missed the first shot, the Lakers lose Game 4, and the series is tied 2-2. If he misses the second, the Magic had three guys under the hoop for the rebound and could have had a chance at the lead.
Instead, he slams the door on Orlando like a puberty-stricken teenage girl after getting dumped by her boyfriend.
Except this time, the Magic went home and cried.
Since I am a huge Lakers fan, you might be curious as to how Fisher’s performance with the Jazz made numero uno.
Very simple: No matter the jersey, this moment exemplified who Derek Fisher is.
Fisher missed the majority of regulation because he was with his daughter who had a three-hour surgery to help her recover from retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer.
So what does he do when it’s over? He flies across the country to go to play basketball.
Don’t worry, his wife said it was okay. He is a family man first and foremost.
Fish arrived in Utah during the third quarter of the Jazz’s Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors. He didn’t stretch or take practice shots or warm up. Deron Williams told the Associated Press that, “As soon as he came into the arena, he went straight to the scorer’s table.”
He then came into the game to a standing ovation and put up five points in overtime to help the Jazz get a victory and a 2-0 series lead. His performance gave the Jazz the psychological edge they needed, and it is a moment that will go down in Jazz history.
But there isn’t enough made about this performance. Fisher was as gutsy as Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals and Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series.
Physical injuries are one thing, but watching your baby suffer through cancer, something she could have easily died from, can completely ruin a man.
But Fisher proved he wasn’t just a man on that day. He may not be a Hall of Fame caliber player, but as far as athletes, as far as humans go, he’s up at the top. He regained his composure and put in a quality performance for his team.
So when Jazz fans booed Fisher and wore shirts that said “Fisher Lied” when the Lakers played them in the playoffs this year, they should have immediately been taken the way of Ol’ Yeller.
What Fisher did was remarkable, and is a microcosm of him as an person. Yes, he will be known as a clutch basketball player, but the kind of effort he put in here makes him a role model.