When the Lakers take the floor of EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, it’s become somewhat of a ritual for the crowd to vociferously boo the Lakers starting guard – but I’m not taking about Kobe Bryant. Instead, much of the hostility is directed at Derek Fisher. But why would a fan base continue to act so derisively towards a 35-year old point guard past his prime, when they have Deron Williams, a budding superstar who’s rapidly emerging as arguably the best point guard in the entire league? It’s as bewildering and convoluted to me as the final season of Lost.
The fact remains that even now, Jazz fans harbor some bitterness against Fisher because he left Utah in 2007 after his only season with the team. His time in Utah was brief but unforgettable. Just ask any Jazz fan to recall that postseason, specifically Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. To refresh your memory, Derek Fisher took a cross-country flight to the game, made his dramatic entry halfway through the third quarter and provided every ounce of inspiration, timely defense and determination within him to lead his team to an overtime victory against the Golden State Warriors. He didn’t just supply an emotional lift. Fisher singlehandedly outscored the opposition 5 to 4 during the overtime period.
This was the same man who had spent the entire day in New York, emotionally spent and mentally drained after Tatum, his infant daughter, underwent an emergency eye-surgery for retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer in the retina. Fisher devoted the majority of the day to be at his family’s side and somehow managed to play in the game when his team desperately needed him. Derek Fisher had come through for all the people in his life that depended on him most.
Just a couple of months later, Fisher requested to be released from the remainder of his contract in order to find the best medical treatment for Tatum. The Jazz owner, the late Larry H. Miller, graciously granted him his wish and Fisher left Utah, having left an indelible mark on the franchise.