Derek Fisher was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1996 NBA draft, nine picks after the Lakers' other, more celebrated rookie that season, Kobe Bryant. After the Lakers won three straight championships (2000–2002), Fisher left the team for the Golden State Warriors and then the Utah Jazz. Fisher went back to the Lakers for the 2008 season, reunited with former teammate Kobe Bryant.
NBA basketball player. Born August 9, 1974, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Derek Fisher's mother, Annette Fisher, worked at a bank, and his father, John Fisher, was an ex-military man who worked as a post office administrator. Fisher credits his parents, and especially his father, with instilling in him from a young age the drive necessary to succeed in basketball, and life. "The work ethic that he and my mom exhibited," Fisher says, "was instrumental in my development, and my dad also did more than just lead by example. He pushed me in certain ways that I can never forget or thank him enough for."
Fisher was exposed to basketball at a very young age, mainly by his older half-brother, Duane Washington. Fisher remembers watching courtside while his brother played high school basketball. "I was too little to play, but I'd watch Duane," Fisher remembers. Washington made it all the way to the NBA, putting in brief stints for the New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers before his career was derailed by cocaine addiction. While his brother was in rehab, a young Fisher called daily to offer his support, and he made a vow never to get involved with drugs himself.
Fisher soon followed in his brother's footsteps as a basketball star. He attended Little Rock's Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School, where he was a standout point guard. Fisher was a McDonald's High School All-American, and led Parkview to an Arkansas state championship. He was also an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) All-American, leading his summer AAU team to a national championship.
Fisher graduated from high school in 1992. Despite his prep basketball accomplishments, no major collegiate program recruited him. Instead, Fisher attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), not far from his childhood home, on a full scholarship. Fisher proved one of the greatest players ever to suit up for UALR, finishing second in the school's history for career points (1,393), assists (372) and steals (189). In 1996, during his senior year, Fisher won honors as the Sunbelt Conference Player of the Year.
One of the better point guards in the 1996 NBA draft, Fisher was drafted 24th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, nine picks after the Lakers' other, more celebrated rookie that season, a straight-from-high-school prospect named Kobe Bryant. Later that summer, the Lakers signed superstar center Shaquille O'Neal, bringing together the core of the team that would win three straight championships from 2000-02. O'Neal and Bryant were the superstars, of course, but Fisher played a vital role on those teams as a steady player able to knock down big shots when needed. Fisher and Bryant developed a close friendship based on their mutual determination and work ethic, with both often staying at the gym for hours after practice ended, pushing each other to improve. "A lot of times we were the only two there," Bryant later remembered, "so we ended up playing full court, one-on-one basketball, and we were almost fighting, literally, just because we were both competitive. From that point forward I just gained so much respect for him."
Propelled by this intense work ethic, Fisher improved greatly during each of his first few NBA seasons, carving out a crucial role on a star-studded Lakers team. During the 1999-2000 season, Fisher started as point guard, averaging 23 minutes and 6 points per game, helping the Lakers win their first NBA championship since the 1980s. During the next two seasons, Fisher averaged 11 points per game as the Lakers won two more championships, firmly establishing themselves as an NBA dynasty.
Greatest Moment on the Court
Fisher's greatest single moment on an NBA basketball court, however, came in the 2004 playoffs against their rival, the San Antonio Spurs. Each team had already won two games, meaning that the winner of Game 5 would become an overwhelming favorite to win the series. The Spurs took a one-point lead with just 0.4 seconds remaining, seemingly ending the contest. But Fisher received an in-bounds pass, spun toward the rim, and fired a last-minute jump shot in one fluid motion, somehow beating the clock. The ball dropped through the rim, giving the Lakers a miracle victory en route to their fourth straight appearance in the NBA Finals.
Those finals ended in shocking defeat, however, when the underdog Detroit Pistons knocked off the reigning champions to win the 2004 NBA title. In the summer following that loss, the Lakers' dynasty dissolved, with both Shaquille O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson leaving the Lakers. Fisher also joined the exodus, departing via free agency for the Golden State Warriors. Fisher's two seasons with the Warriors were the two best statistical campaigns of his career, but the Warriors failed to make the playoffs in either year, and Fisher left the Warriors for the Utah Jazz in 2006.
Derek Fisher married Candace Patton on February 19, 2005, and in 2006 Candace gave birth to fraternal twins, Drew and Tatum. The Fisher family also includes Candace's son, Marshall, and Derek's daughter, Chloe, both from previous relationships. The Fishers found themselves facing family tragedy in 2007 when their daughter Tatum, just 10 months old, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma—cancer of the retina. On May 9, 2007, Tatum had eye surgery in New York, and Fisher left the Jazz to be with his daughter at the hospital. Later that night, with the surgery successfully completed and his daughter in stable condition, Fisher flew back to Salt Lake City, arriving just after the half-time of the Jazz's playoff game against the Warriors. In one of the more memorable playoff performances in recent NBA history, Fisher forced a crucial turnover in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime, and then made a key three-pointer in the extra period to lift the Jazz to victory. Following the 2007 season, Fisher asked the Jazz to let him out of his contract so that he could move his family to a major city where his daughter could receive the highly specialized medical care she needed for her rare condition. The Jazz complied with Fisher's wishes and the player returned to his first pro team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Fisher, now playing the role of steady veteran, contributed to the Lakers' quick reemergence as the NBA's premier franchise. After losing to the Boston Celtics in an upset in the 2008 NBA finals, the Lakers again won back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. While Fisher and Bryant were celebrating their fifth NBA championship together in 2010, Bryant pulled Fisher aside at center court to say, "It's worth it, man. It's worth it. All that work. All that hard work."
In addition to his illustrious career on the basketball court, Fisher was elected president of the National Basketball Player's Association (the NBA players' union) in 2006. That same year, Fisher donated $700,000 to his alma mater, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, founding the Fisher Fellows Life Skills Program as a way to mentor student athletes at the university.
Through his skills as a basketball player, his leadership of the National Basketball Players Association and his unflinching devotion to his family and community, Fisher has become one of the most respected athletes of his generation. Fisher's role model, the legendary ex-Lakers point guard Magic Johnson, wrote that "Derek Fisher is one of the most highly regarded players in the game today, and the respect he has earned is richly deserved & It's Derek's quiet example of how to live a good life and achieve success on and off the court that makes him remarkable & The league, and the world at large, could use more people like Derek Fisher in it."
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