There are few better suited to explain what makes Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant tick than Derek Fisher, who spent years playing alongside Bryant in the backcourt. The two entered the league together in 1996, and ultimately won five NBA championships in Los Angeles.
Fisher and Bryant were always somewhat opposite, with Fisher the very measured role player who never tried to do too much. Meanwhile, Bryant made a career out of attempting to do the impossible – and often succeeding.
Fisher of course was with Bryant in the two separate eras of his 20-year career — as No. 8 and No. 24. On The Full 48 podcast hosted by Howard Beck, Fisher explained one difference between Bryant during his time spent in two different jersey numbers:
“To me, the No. 8 Kobe from 1996, Day 1 that I knew, was literally, so focused on just becoming great, that nothing else existed. Think about this, he fractured a bone in his wrist playing pickup basketball on Venice Beach before his rookie season even started. To me, that sums up the No. 8 Kobe. A guy that literally is so tunnel-vision focused on his love and passion for basketball. That as the No. 1 draft pick of a team, he was the 13th pick, but he was the Lakers’ highest pick that year, would go out and play a pickup basketball game, outside, on Venice Beach. Just because he loved to play basketball. That’s who No. 8 was. Practice, games, shootarounds, after practice, whatever, everything was basketball. There was very little conversation, very little dialogue. It was just, ‘I’m here to go out and try to just kill it every time I touch the ball.’”
Lakers fans know exactly what Fisher is talking about after having been treated to two decades of Bryant in a Lakers uniform. He squeezed every ounce of basketball talent out of himself, perhaps to a degree greater than any athlete who has come before him.
Still, it was the steady, dependable Fisher, always staying within the line, who allowed Bryant to paint his masterpieces. As great as Bryant was, perhaps we don’t give enough credit to Fisher for his ability to perfectly play his role and come up big time and time again when the Lakers needed him.
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