This is the second in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.
Continuing with number 15 – Derek Fisher. We’ll take an in-depth look at perhaps his greatest play as a Los Angeles Laker.
More than cementing his legacy as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Derek Fisher spent 13 of his 18 seasons in the Purple and Gold. Over two different spells, he played 28,616 minutes in 1,108 games, scoring 8,923 points. Winning the hearts of both fans and players throughout the process. Kobe Bryant called him his ‘all-time favourite teammate’, high praise from a guy who played with so many Laker greats.
Along with his impressive longevity stats, Fisher won 5 rings with the Lakers. Becoming the closest thing to a third star the ‘Three-peat’ Lakers had, averaging 9.5 PPG between ’00-’03. Then becoming an experienced veteran on the ’09-’10 championship teams, having experienced 3 title runs and 12 seasons in the NBA up to that point.
Fisher had a couple of great moments in a Laker uniform. A few clutch threes, of course, one late against the Utah Jazz in 2010 and a couple against the Orlando Magic in the ’09 finals. Not to forget his fourth-quarter heroics against the Boston Celtics in game 3 of the 2010 finals, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the last 12 minutes.
But for this recap we settled on the turn around jumper he made in game 5 against the San Antonio Spurs in 2004. Although that season didn’t end in a championship for the Purple and Gold, his shot helped the Lakers get another treasured series win over Spurs and create yet another legendary NBA buzzer-beater.
It’s the 13th of May 2004, it’s game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers are tied at 2-2 with the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers had a good lead early in the game, but both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were struggling to score consistently. Due to this, it had all come down to the last few possessions.
There are 30 seconds left on the clock, the Spurs lead 71-70. Karl Malone rebounds the ball after it rims out, passing it off to Fisher. He dribbles it up across the timeline and passes to Bryant on the left-wing, who is being guarded by Devin Brown. Now 20 seconds left on the game clock, Malone comes over and sets a screen that Bryant uses to attack the left elbow, Brown gets caught up on the screen, Bryant rises for an open jumper and hits it! Gregg Popovich calls for time, the Lakers now lead 72-71.
The Spurs advance the ball and will inbound in the front-court with the game clock at 11.5 seconds, Brown in-bounds to a pealing Tim Duncan who catches it at the top of the three-point line. He dribbles left and handed it off to a driving Brown, who is then fouled by Fisher, the Lakers’ final foul. 5.4 seconds left, Spurs call a timeout.
Manu Ginobli will inbound from the right side of the floor. He gives it to Duncan who catches it at the right elbow. Guarded by O’Neal, he dribbles towards the top of the key but can’t get around Shaq. Forced to throw up a fade-away prayer, Duncan hits a miracle shot. Spurs lead, 0.4 seconds left. Lakers timeout.
The Lakers came out of their timeout and stacked all their guys around the free-throw line, seeing this the Spurs immediately use their final timeout. The Lakers then come out and run a completely different play. Bryant sets a pin-down screen for O’Neal and then curls to the left corner, but the Spurs defense is too good and the Lakers can’t get the ball in. Phil Jackson is forced to call his final timeout.
Several real minutes have gone by since Duncan’s shot and yet the clock still sits at 0.4 seconds. The Lakers come out stacked on the free throw line again. Gary Payton is in-bounding, this is it, no more timeouts, he needs to inbound this ball. O’Neal rolls round to the back of the crowd towards the rim, a potential lob threat. Bryant scrambles out towards Payton to receive the short pass. O’Neal is tied up at the rim, and Bryant is doubled.
Fisher finally breaks from the free-throw line, darting left towards Payton. Payton sees this and, with no other option, inbounds the ball to Fisher. In one extremely swift and unorthodox movement, Fisher catches the ball, plants both feet and jumps into the air, swinging his body towards the basket. He chucks a heave toward the rim, over both outstretched arms of Ginobli. The buzzer sounds as the ball floats through the air, it reaches its apex and sinks gracefully towards the rim. Without as much as a graze on the iron, it drops through the net. Lakers win!
After playing four years at his hometown college, the University of Arkansas, in Little Rock, Fisher was drafted by the Lakers as the 24th pick in the 1996 NBA draft.
What came of Derek Fisher’s career was not expected, a 5-time champion and a true Laker great!
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