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My Chronological Derek Fisher Lakers Obituary


Derek Fisher’s importance to the Lakers can never be exaggerated. Perhaps the best way to explain it is with the help of  a timeline. Because it wasn’t just about what Fisher did as much as about when he did it:

May 2, 1996 – In what would turn out to be Magic Johnson’s last game after his final comeback, the Houston Rockets defeated the Lakers 102-94, winning the best-of-five series in four games. The Lakers went 53-29 that season but never really looked like they had a chance to win a championship.

The low point of the season was Nick Van Exel getting suspended for seven games and fined $25,000 for shoving referee Ron Garretson and calling him a “little midget”. Magic told reporters after the game that Van Exel was going to have to “learn from it”–which made it all the more hilarious when Magic was suspended three games for bumping an official just five days later.

May 14, 1996 – Magic Johnson announces his retirement.

June 26, 1996 – The Lakers make Fisher the 24th pick in the 1996 Draft. I didn’t know anyone who had ever heard of him. I just knew that Magic and Sedale Threatt were gone and Van Exel was the only other point guard on the roster.

July 19, 1996 – Fisher signs a 3-year, $1.8 million contract and chooses the No. 4 jersey, the same uniform number he wore at the University of Arkansas – Little Rock.

July 18, 1996 – The Lakers sign Shaquille O’Neal to a 7-year, $120 million contract.

September 30, 1996 – Just before the start of the preseason, the Lakers sign Byron Scott after being away from the team for two seasons. Fisher voluntarily gives Scott his old No. 4 jersey and opts for the No. 2 instead. The first of what will become a career defined by selfless acts.

February 15, 1998 – After an 0-for-9 game against Houston, Van Exel is held out of action due to a sore right knee. He eventually has arthroscopic surgery on the knee as well as another surgery for an injured foot and is placed on injured reserve. With Fisher as the starting point guard the Lakers go 10-4, including six straight wins before Van Exel is ready to return. Lakers head coach Del Harris decides to keep Fisher in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season.

May 24, 1998 – The Lakers season ends with another loss to the Jazz, this time a sweep. After being down 2-0 in the series, the team huddled at the end of practice. While the rest of his team chanted “1-2-3 … Lakers!”, Van Exel went solo with his own chant, “1-2-3 … Cancun!”–a reference to his vacation plans.

June 24, 1998 – Van Exel is traded to the Nuggets for Tony Battie and the rights to Tyronn Lue.

January 21, 1999 – After the lockout ends, the Lakers sign veteran point guard Derek Harper.

February 21, 1999 – With Fisher in the starting lineup, the Lakers start the season 6-3. Fisher is replaced by Harper. Fisher doesn’t say one word about the demotion.

February 24, 1999 – After losing their first three games with Harper as their starting point guard, Harris is fired as the team’s head coach and eventually replaced by Kurt Rambis.

April 17, 1999 – Fisher is reinserted into the starting lineup for the last 11 regular season games and all eight playoff games. The season ends with another sweep–this time at the hands of the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

August 3, 1999 – The Lakers ink Fisher to a 7-year, $30 million contract. Not bad for a guy who was a last-minute replacement for the Desert Classic camp for rookies because of an injury to another prospect.

October 13, 1999 – After hiring Phil Jackson as the team’s head coach, the Lakers sign Ron Harper, Michael Jordan’s backcourt mate on three of Jackson’s six championships as head coach of the Chicago Bulls.

November 1, 1999 – Before the start of the regular season, the Lakers place Kobe Bryant on the injured list with a broken right hand. Fisher and Harper make up the starting backcourt for the team’s first 19 games of the season.

December 8, 1999 – In his fifth game back after returning from his injury, Kobe Bryant is inserted back into the starting lineup alongside Harper. Fisher is again demoted and once again doesn’t utter a peep.

June 19, 2000 – The Lakers win the NBA Championship, their first since 1988.

September 20, 2000 – Fisher has surgery on his right foot to repair a stress fracture.

March 13, 2001 – Six months after undergoing surgery, Fisher plays his first game since winning the championship the previous June. Bryant sits the game out with a viral infection. Jackson plans to play Fisher six minutes. Instead he plays 37 minutes and scores 26 points to go along with eight assists and six steals in leading the Lakers to a 112-107 victory over the Boston Celtics. After the game Jackson tells reporters, “We lack leadership without him.” He would end up starting every game for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

June 15, 2001 – The Lakers go 15-1 en route to their second consecutive championship. Fisher averages 13.4 ppg on 48 percent shooting, including 52 percent on three-pointer–the best playoff numbers of his career. He makes 15-of-20 three-pointers in the Lakers’ WCF sweep of the Spurs as well as 6-of-8 in the series-clinching win against the 76ers. Even more remarkable is that it turns out Fisher did it after suffering another stress fracture.

July 3, 2001 – Fisher undergoes a second surgery to fix a stress fracture.

November 25, 2001 – After missing the first 12 games of the 2001-02 season, Fisher returns. As it turns out, Fisher would never miss another game as member of the Lakers due to injury — a streak of 605 regular season games.

December 11, 2001 – After coming off the bench for his first six games back, Fisher replaces Lindsey Hunter in the starting lineup.

June 12, 2002 – The Lakers finish their sweep of the New Jersey Nets and win their third consecutive championship. He would make 8-of-12 three-point attempts in the series.

September 13, 2002 – Shaquille O’Neal undergoes surgery to remove bone spurs from his right foot. He would miss the first 12 games of the season. The Lakers would go 3-9 without him.

May 15, 2003 – The Lakers championship run ends when they are eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in six games. The lasting image from the series is that of Fisher and Bryant crying during the closing seconds of Game 6.

July 16, 2003 – The Lakers sign free agent point guard Gary Payton. Once again Fisher loses his starting job. Once again he remains silent about it.

May 13, 2004 – Without home-court advantage and the Western Conference Semifinals tied 2-2, Fisher would hit one of the most memorable shots in playoff history. With only 0.4 seconds left and the Lakers down 73-72, Fisher hits a turnaround jumper as the clock expires to give the Lakers a 74-73 victory.

June 15, 2004 – A Game 5 loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals would turn out to be the last game that Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, and Kobe Bryant would play together as members of the Los Angeles Lakers — a run that began in 1996.

June 23, 2004 – Fisher opts out of the final year of his contract.

July 14, 2004 – Shaquille O’Neal is traded to the Miami Heat.

July 16, 2004 – Fisher accepts a 6-year, $37 million contract from the Golden St. Warriors. The Lakers reportedly offered Fisher just three years and $15 million.

November 13, 2004 – After three games as a starter, Fisher is replaced in the staring lineup by Speedy Claxton.

February 24 ,2005 – The Warriors trade for Baron Davis and go on to finish with identical 34-48 records in Fisher’s two seasons in Golden State.

July 12, 2006 – The Warriors trade Fisher to the Utah Jazz for Andre Owens, Devin Brown, and Keith McLeod.

November 11, 2006 – Fisher is elected president of the NBA Players Association.

May 7, 2007 – The Jazz place Fisher on the injured list because of a family issue. His 10-month old daughter Tatum has retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer.

May 9, 2007 – After Tatum’s surgery, Fisher flies from New York to Salt Lake City, arriving during the third quarter of the team’s playoff game with the help of a chartered plane and a police escort. He enters the arena to a standing ovation and hugs and high-fives from current teammates and former teammate Baron Davis. He checks into the game with 3:18 left in the third quarter. He would score five points, including a decisive three-pointer in overtime to help give the Jazz a 2-0 lead in a series they would go on to win in five games.

May 30, 2007 – After missing the playoffs in 2005, followed by two consecutive first-round playoff exits, Bryant asks the Lakers to trade him.

July 2, 2007 – Per his request, Fisher is released from his contract with the Jazz so that he can find a team in a city that has “highly specialized medical facilities in order to get the best possible care for his daughter,” said now deceased Jazz owner, Larry H. Miller. In the process, Fisher walks away from $21 million of guaranteed money.

July 20, 2007 – In spite of Bryant’s trade request, Fisher decides to return to Los Angeles. He and the Lakers agree on a 3-year, $14 million contract in what will turn out to be the first building block in the team’s return to glory.

January 13, 2008 – After a 25-11 start and in the midst of a 7-game winning streak, center Andrew Bynum dislocates his left knee cap–inarguably during the best stretch of his career. For the six games in January before the injury, Bynum had averages of 17.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.

February 1, 2008 – The Lakers trade for Pau Gasol and finish the season 57-25 before losing to the Boston Celtics in the Finals.

June 11, 2009 – With 4.8 seconds left and the Lakers trailing by three to the Orlando Magic, Fisher knocks down a three-pointer that sends the game into overtime. With 31.3 seconds left in overtime, Fisher knocks down another three-pointer that gives the Lakers a 94-91 lead that would propel them to an eventual series win in five games–the Lakers first championship in seven years.

May 8, 2010 – Trailing 108-106 in Game 3 of the Lakers Western Conference Semifinals series with Utah, Fisher drains another three-pointer with 28.6 seconds left to give the Lakers the lead.

June 8, 2010 – With the series tied 1-1 and back in Boston for the next three games, Fisher clinches the victory by racing past all five Boston defenders for an and-one layup with 48.3 seconds left. The win would seize back momentum in the series. Fisher would score 16 points in the game and give one of the most heartfelt postgame interviews in recent memory.

June 17, 2010 – Fisher’s three-pointer with 6:11 remaining in Game 7 ties the game at 64-64. Up to that point, the Celtics had had the lead from 4:41 left in the first quarter on. The Lakers had tied the game at 61 but the Celtics would retake the lead, 64-61. Fisher’s three-pointer made sure the team wouldn’t quit. They never trailed again. They would go on to win the game and the series, avenging the loss to the Celtics from two years earlier.

July 14, 2010 – The Lakers sign Fisher to a 3-year, $10.5 million extension.

December 8, 2010 – Fisher hits a game-winning lay-up at the buzzer to give the Lakers an 87-86 victory over the Clippers.

January 16, 2012 – With the game tied 70-70, Fisher hits a three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left that gives the Lakers a victory over the champion Dallas Mavericks, the team that ended the Lakers quest for another three-peat.

March 14, 2012 – In what would turn out to be his last game as a Laker, Fisher hits a go-ahead jumper in overtime to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish and a victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

March 15, 2002 – The Lakers trade Fisher and a first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill.

Derek Fisher will always be remembered for his contributions to five championship teams. He went from being a kid that nobody had ever heard of to one of the city’s most beloved sports figures.

A gentleman, A warrior. A champion.

Thank you, Derek Fisher.

You’ll always be a Laker.

Andrew Ungvari is a screenwriter and co-lead blogger for Follow him on twitter @DrewUnga.