On the evening of June 26, 1996, one day after my youngest sister was born, I sat in my Uncle’s car, deep in the throes of my 4th grade summer sabbatical in San Diego.

My Uncle Doug and I listened to the local sports talk radio coverage of what would be the night the Los Angeles Lakers landed the 13th pick of that particular draft, a 17 year-old kid from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania named Kobe Bryant, in exchange for their then starting center Vlade Divac. The hosts of the program praised Jerry West for his shrewd move that would prove to be his greatest gift to the franchise, and speculated the Lakers were also trying to deal their other pick at 24 for a veteran big man.

Thank goodness Zeke did not pull the trigger on that deal. For we would not have gained the opportunity to get to know of one of the best human beings to ever play professional sports.

With the 24th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected a little known 6’1” guard from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock named Derek Fisher.

Over his first eight seasons with the Lakers, Derek became a vital role player. And under the tutelage of Ron Harper, Fisher became a master facilitator in Phil Jackson’s complex Triangle offense.

On May 13, 2004, the Lakers, trailing the Spurs 73-72 with 0.4 seconds remaining in the game, and reeling from a wacky circus shot by Tim Duncan that all but assured a Game 5 victory for San Antonio, Gary Payton found D-Fish, and, I don’t know how he did it, but in seemingly slow motion, Fisher nailed the 20 foot fling.

The Fish that Saved L.A. joined Big Shot Rob and Jerry West’s 60-footer in Laker’s last-second lore.

And then, in five lackluster games against the powerful Pistons, it was over.

Shaq was shipped off to Miami.

Karl and Phil faded into retirement.

The Glove was traded to Boston.

And Fisher, just like most everyone else on that 2004 squad, bolted for greener pastures.

Despite his love for the City of Angels and its fans, he signed a lucrative 37 million dollar deal over six years. When the Warriors acquired Baron Davis at the trade deadline in 2005, Fisher saw his role diminish and was relegated to the bench.

In July of 2006, the Warriors traded Derek to the Utah Jazz for spare parts and were faced with an enticing situation. He became the de facto leader for a young Jazz team looking for an identity in the crowded Western Conference, and Fisher himself, the wily vet, took Deron Williams under his wing.

In the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals against the Warriors, Derek announced that he would miss Game 2 of the series, due to the illness of one of his children. Although the announcement of his youngest daughter Tatum’s rare form of an ocular cancer called retinoblastoma came after the playoffs, her father’s dedication and pride for not only his family, but also the game he loves was clear as day.

After the Jazz exited the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals, Fisher was bought out of his contract. Not for a more lucrative contract. Not to for a guaranteed starting role.

He left Salt Lake City to find better care for his daughter.

There is no wonder why the Players Association chose him as their representative.

But this tale has a happy ending. Derek Fisher came home to the fans and the city that embraced him for the first eight years of his career. Tatum, who is receiving top care at UCLA Medical Center, is on her way to a full recovery and her Dad is having one of the best seasons of his career.

Again, Derek has taken to mentoring a young point guard through his early years in the league, this time it’s Jordan Farmar.

And the Lakers are reaping the benefits of Fisher’s leadership on and off the court and are truly blessed that this homecoming, although under frightening yet optimistic circumstances has proved to be key component to the Lakers success this season.

His near career best 12.1 points per game doesn’t hurt either.

Before this homecoming, the Lakers were a team in search of it’s heart and soul, and after two seasons with Smush Parker ”running” the point, they’ve found it.

From where I sit, Laker’s heart and soul proudly wears a number two stitched upon his Forum blue and gold jersey.

  • drorican

    this brought a tear to my eye

    derek is that dude.

  • SILO

    Blue and gold? Purple and Gold man!

  • artpolo5

    Wowww, great article. Fisher trueley deserves every praise and compliment that goes his way. The team finally feels complete now that Fish is back in it. I love the way he plays, how hes determined, great teamwork, and an awsome arching shot. Happy to hear that his daughter is recovering and i would be more happy to see Fish get another 3 or 4 rings with Kobe and the Lakers cuz this guy deserves it.

    LET IT RAIN FISH, LET IT RAIN

  • http://realballers.com KingKobe

    I hate it when people say blue and gold… lol, great article nonetheless.

  • Keep Odom

    Amazing article. Varsity, you got skills. You have put a human side to it and it has even increased my level of appreciation for Fisher even more. We are trully lucky to have him on our team.

  • Phant0M

    amazING.

  • Sako

    [Comment ID #27803 Will Be Quoted Here]

    actually the laker colors are Forum blue and gold jersey

  • lakersisbomb

    [Comment ID #27803 Will Be Quoted Here]

    FORUM blue not just blue

  • lakerz

    thats deep dude.

  • xtro

    God bless Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Harper, and Brian Shaw.

  • mplakers

    SILO
    Feb 27th, 2008 at 2:58 am
    Blue and gold? Purple and Gold man!

    what’s up with these young’ uns not knowing about “FORUM BLUE AND GOLD”

    LEGENDARY CHICK HEARN referred to the uni’s as “FORUM BLUE AND GOLD” for a number of years which, stems from the days of jack cook as the owner. jack cook hated to associate purple with the team and asked chick to refer to them as forum blue.

    man i’m in my 20′s and i know that stuff. if you’re a real laker fan man, you better know your history. this team is filled with legend and lore. respect it.

  • Jrod

    That beautiful

  • SILO

    [Comment ID #27819 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Yeah man, i know the story about Jack not liking the shade of purple the lakers had so he changed it to blue. Just never heard the term “FORUM blue and gold”, jeez not even stu uses that term for the lakers anymore. Only Chick did as you said so dont be surprised if someone forgot or didnt know.

  • mplakers

    “forum” blue man, “forum” blue. and i believe stu came around when buss was already the owner, so chick didn’t really use it as often after that point.

  • John C

    [Comment ID #27824 Will Be Quoted Here]

    sorry, just had to comment on this. if you really did know the story about jack cook and chick hearn then you WOULD HAVE HEARD the term FORUM blue and gold. that being said, it’s alright if you’re a young fan and didn’t know.

  • bryan
  • Nabil

    Very nice article. Hey, which playoff year was it when Fish came back from a regular season injury and went totally bizerk on 3′s? Was that the same year he went through a crapload of playoff games without a single turnover? How about when Popovich was asked what happened to the Spurs and he said, “Derek Fisher happened”! He killed ‘em. Was that all the same year, or different years?
    My favorite Fisher moments from the 3-peat were when he’d stand there and take a vicious charge from some big man on the break, and pop right back up. That always got the Lakers all fired up.

  • Nabil

    By the way, I don’t mean the 0.4 shot when talking about Popovich’s quote. It was about Fisher shooting the lights out and it was sometime in the 3-peat. Anyone remember the year?

  • ryguy2303

    Way to take away from the article with your whining over the colors. Fisher is great man.

  • kelvlam

    great writing man, may hat off to you. almost brought me to tears :)

  • varsity optimism rules

    That 0.4 shot was the greatest day of my life.
    VARSITY. Another great article. You bewilder me with your thoughts and words.
    I am truly not worthy

  • varsity optimism rules

    [Comment ID #27803 Will Be Quoted Here]
    FORUM BLUE = PURPLE. Don’t be so rude.

  • ECJ

    Gotta admit I got a little soft on that one. I love Fish to death. The man represents true class in the NBA.

    Let’s get a ring for D-Fish, Tatum, Kobe, Pau, Bynum… and us of course.

  • MILO

    I think there is going to be repercussions for Phil and Kobe going after the officials in the past couple of games. I would not be surprized to see the Laker games be affected by it like we did yesterday.And the fact of the matter is that Kobe will not win MVP because the league has had a vendetta with him ever since that get rich scheme the sl-ut from Colorado pulled on him.Kobe has carried the team since 05 and has been fu-ck-ed over for the MVP every single time.If that is not making you’re team better then i dont know what is.So i can almost guarantee that C-Paul or James will win it.I will be satisfied if the officials dont start to sabotage the Lakers games driving them to a 7th or 8th spot before the playoffs.YES IM PARANOID!!!

  • DCLAKER

    I can’t believe someone on this site said DF needs to step up next game. NO.#1,ALL DF NEEDS TO DO IS TAKE CARE OF HIS DAUGHTER. He can sit on the bench and help develope the youngsters like Farmar and AB for all I care. This is the same guy that helped us win those 3(in a row)Championships so people need to watch THEY MOUTHS.

  • JB714

    I’ll be really surprised if the lakers dont retire his jersey…

  • Luis

    Forum Blue is pretty much Purple with different names

  • http://thelakersnation.com Tyler

    hey good articel

    but i was wondering if you could make a jordan farmar pic like this one or like some of the others you have done i have liked all of them and would really apprieciate it

  • http://swishtheball.net KOPAU BYDOM

    the fish made a great move back to the lake

  • mplakers

    hey NABIL,

    the year you’re talking about is the 2000-2001 championship. it was their repeat year back to back. they tore thorugh the playoffs undefeated…sac-out 4-0, san antonio out 4-0, then wolves garnett out 4-0. (i’m not too sure but, i believe that was the order–i could be wrong) then they faced the sixers in the finals and heartbreakingly lost the first game in overtime. then they went and won the next 4. that year they finished the playoffs with only one loss. it is an NBA record. and if they had finished the playoffs undefeated that would have been an NBA first also.

    that was the year that derek fisher came back with the three point arsenal as his deadliest weapon and it was very unexpected. fisher killed them singlehandedly in two games of their playoff series…man i loved it..i love the lakers. i was at hooters eating chicken wings when derek “murderized” them…lol…i’ll be there again this year when they “hannibal lecter” the celtics, pistons, or cavs…with beans and a nice bottle of chianti. (slurping sound)…lol

  • Nabil

    lol, thanks man. yeah, Fish surprised the hell out of me too coming back from injury with the 3 ball.

  • monmon

    Good article.
    But its Tex’s triangle offense. It never has been or will be Phil’s triangle offense. Credit where credit is deserved.

  • lakerzzz

    Anyways we are 1 and a half games up phoenix dang they are super sh!tty with shaq haha love it

  • varsityoptimism

    [Comment ID #27892 Will Be Quoted Here]

    if phil wasn’t running the show, there would be no home for tex. i think the head coach implements the offensive strategy

  • lalaland

    dude, im 14 years old in middle school and i know that the lakers colrs r “forum blue” and gold. Get your favts straight.

  • lalaland

    correction, “get your FACTS straight”.

  • lalball81

    That .4 second shot by Fisher was amazing. I remember I was crying after Duncan hit that jumper over Shaq from the top of the key. In a split second everything changed thanks to Fish. I can’t remember such a sudden emotional swing in my life than what I felt watching that game.

  • Eric Klein

    Very well said, and with a sense of emotion and understanding of the dynamics of the events as they transpired, as well as the people involved.

    We’re on the verge of a new “dream team”; it may not have the same “star” feeling as the prior one, but its nice to see Kobe and Fish together to bring us back to our rightful stature in the NBA.

    Keep up the great writing!