It is safe to say that Derek Fisher has already made a lasting impact on the Los Angeles Lakers. His performance and leadership on the court equally matches his character and influence off the court. Even though Fish has never been the first, second, or even third go to guy on the team, he is responsible for one of the toughest and most crucial positions in the game: team captain (shared with Kobe Bryant). Fisher’s captain duties illuminate his strengths as a leader. He can show off his influence among teammates, his ability to bring the team together, his fifteen years of experience in the NBA, his skill to adapt to the ever-changing environment of basketball, and his prowess to think ahead.
One of Fisher’s basketball skills that has greatly improved throughout his career is his ability to sacrifice his body. Fisher has the mindset to make the rules of the game to work in his favor. Fisher is considered the one of the best in the NBA at getting the offensive foul called in his favor, with Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs being the only player close to his field. Some call it acting. I call it strategy. Fisher’s ability to strategize at any given moment during the game may act as the most important skill that translates to a possible future after he retires from his playing career. Coach.
As Fisher’s contract with the Lakers draws to an end there is one thing that will make Laker fans happy. He will retire as a Laker, where he belongs. However, as one door closes another opens. Many who know the game believe Fisher is a perfect fit to become an NBA coach. Besides his character and performance on the court, the main reason for this belief is his credibility he has gained as President of the NBA Player’s Association. As the NBA nears a potential lockout, Fisher’s leadership abilities will have an opportunity to shine as he will represent the voice of all NBA players.
Once Fisher retires, he could possibly remain on the Lakers’ bench. How? By following current Laker assistant, Brian Shaw’s footsteps and becoming an assistant coach for the team. This is Phil Jackson’s last year, even though he hasn’t officially confirmed it. Rumor has it that Brian Shaw is the likely replacement to take over Jackson’s throne. To smooth this transition of power, the Lakers could use Fisher’s influence and respect among teammates as a key perspective to support Shaw in his new leadership position.
Fisher’s contribution to the Lakers will make him a Laker legend and a Hall of Fame inductee. As a joke, Kobe Bryant once remarked how people will now ask him if he can win a championship without Fish rather than Shaq (as Shaq famously said after the 2008 Finals loss against Boston). Kidding or not, Fisher’s influence and leadership has directly resulted in his five-time world champion status. He has played in 199 playoff games, which is the fifth highest in history and will increase this year. He has made some of the biggest shots in Laker and NBA history, including his famous “0.4 shot” against the Spurs in the 2004 playoffs.
However, it is Fisher’s abilities as a leader on and off the court that represents the glue that holds the team together. His return as a Laker in 2008 changed the tide for the team. Everything seemed to come together for the Lakers the year Fisher came back. Team chemistry has never been higher. The brilliant acquisition of Pau Gasol by GM Mitch Kupckak served as the icing on the cake. The Lakers would be smart to try to keep a player that represents a team in such a professional manner and use his leadership and coaching abilities to teach and develop future Laker talent.