As many of you know, I am a recovering Los Angeles Lakers fan. As much as I have no love for the current incarnation of the Lake Show, I still hold many wonderful memories from the days when my addiction was in full swing. And of course, I have my favorites.
Derek Fisher is one of my favorites. In truth, he’s probably my favorite non-Hall of Fame Laker of all time. It’s sort of hard to put Fish ahead of guys like Magic, Worthy and Kareem, the guys I grew up idolizing and who brought home all that hardware, but beyond that holy trinity, he was just always one of my favorite cats to rock the Forum blue & gold. And that was before I met him. After that, it really wasn’t even close. As any of my co-workers who’ve met Derek will surely concur, he is one of the consistently coolest cats in the League. He’s not a guy I ever got to know all that well, but it didn’t matter. He played smart, played his ass off, hit clutch shots in huge games, stayed humble, and he was mad personable off the court? There’s really nothing more I need in a ballplayer.
Here’s how much love I have for Fish: I don’t hate the Jazz anymore. As any long-time Laker fan (as well as the one Jazz fan I know: my man Hal, who’s from Pittsburgh and thus has no logical reason to even follow the NBA, let alone root for a team in f*cking Utah) knows, those early Stockton-Malone squads were pretty high up on our list of enemies, I guess because they seemed like everything our team wasn’t — sort of a less-good, Western Conference version of the Celtics. I always hated Utah, from Mark Eaton til, well, pretty recently. But I also find it exceptionally difficult to root against a team when Derek Fisher is on it, so if nothing else, I’ve lately gone sort of neutral where the Jazz are concerned. If I think about them at all.
Well, now I’m a fan. Actively, if only for the next few weeks or however long this playoff run lasts or however long Derek Fisher continues to rock that powder blue. You may know that I occasionally mention my young son on these posts, which some of you might think is cool and some of you couldn’t care about (and at least one of you seems really bothered by…); regardless, those of you who have a child know there’s no more relentless form of inspiration, so this probably won’t be the last time. When I first heard about Derek dealing with some “personal matter,” I assumed maybe one of his parents was sick. Not like that makes it easy, but at least it implied somebody older, somebody who might’ve been expected to have health issues, someone who’s illness might not have been such a gut-wrenching shock.
We now know that wasn’t the case. The look on dude’s face when he was walking into the arena last night told us as much. Derek’s always had a pretty good poker face — I’m sure it comes in handy with all those borderline charges he’s taken over the years — but this was different. Then we found out what was going on.
There’s a lot of bullsh*t emotion in sports, and hearing Dick Stockton use the word “heroic” a few times before we really knew what Derek was dealing with kind of got on my nerves. But after the game, when the reality of the situation became clear, that changed quickly — for me, at least, and probably for anyone else with a child. Because he’s good people, and because he’s the sort of player who has always seemed to get the most out of his ability, and because he’s always made the sort of clutch plays he made last night, I’m a long-time Derek Fisher fan. Because of what he was dealing with last night… well, I’m a grown man, so I’m sort of past the point of needing heroes. But in retrospect, and in this case, the word doesn’t seem so inappropriate.