In Fisher’s single season as a Jazz player, they had their deepest playoff run in nearly a decade. It provided the fans with a cause for jubilation, a moment they could cherish, reminisce about forever. Their most vivid playoff memory no longer had to be the heartrending sight of Michael Jordan shoving away Byron Russell to sink the buzzer-beater that cemented his status as the greatest to ever play the game. Derek Fisher inspired and uplifted an entire city and provided them with a lasting memory.
When Fisher returned to Salt Lake for the first time since his departure, the boos were emphatic. Somehow Fisher went from receiving standing ovations like a rocker to being treated like he was John Rocker. I can understand why Jazz fans were upset. The Jazz needed Fisher as much as the Lakers did. In case you’re not convinced, the Jazz have failed to duplicate their success of 2007 because they’ve been eliminated every year by a formidable foe and a familiar face: The Lakers and Derek Fisher. Their loss was undoubtedly our gain. But he felt he had to leave because his first priority was to his family, not himself or the city that began to understand his worth.
Lakers fan should never underestimate Fisher’s value. In his three-years away from Los Angeles, the Lakers played in only 12 postseason games, while Fisher completed 16 games in the 2007 playoffs alone. Kobe has never made it past the first round of the playoffs without Derek Fisher. But as teammates, Bryant and Fisher have made three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and the streak looks likely to continue. Last season, Kobe finally lifted the 350-pound burden lifted off his back by winning his first title without Shaq. The only commonality that remains from all the Lakers championships teams this millennium is the trio of Kobe, Phil, and Fisher.
It might all just be coincidence and good fortune for a guy like Fish. In life, good things tend to happen to good people. Regardless of how Utah fans feel, I can’t think of another basketball player who’s been more deserving of all his successes than Derek Fisher. I hope the city he came back to agrees.