One of the worst arguments ever made by Laker haters was that Kobe Bryant couldn’t win a title without Shaquille O’Neal. Yeah…how’d that one turn out? The reality is Kobe has never won a title without Derek Fisher by his side.
So now that the Lakers have committed the greatest sin of all – selling their soul to the Rockets – it stands to reason Kobe will never win another title again…right?
Wrong. Dead wrong, in fact.
Nothing guarantees that the Lakers, never mind Kobe, will ever win a title again. Unlike the prophecy handed down from on high proclaiming LeBron James will win not one, not two, not seven, not eleven, but every NBA title in perpetuity, it is not written anywhere that Kobe will ever taste championship Champaign again.
Now that Fisher is gone there is a 100% chance Kobe won’t enjoy another parade through downtown L.A., right?
Wrong. LeBron James decision wrong, in fact.
If the Lakers don’t win a title this season it will be because they have no depth and haven’t played with any consistency on the road. Not because Derek Fisher isn’t around to call player only meetings.
If the Lakers don’t ever hang another banner it won’t be because the curse of Fisher has become the 21st century curse of the Bambino. It will be because Andrew Bynum isn’t on par with the past Laker bigs and that no other transcendent talent ever sports purple and gold again.
Look, I’m a lifelong Laker fan. I was there when Fisher was a rookie trying to define his game and I’ll still be here when Fisher is the mayor of some town in Arkansas. Life moves on no matter how often the names change. Same goes for the NBA. No player is bigger than the game no name is bigger than the franchise. Best believe that when Kobe’s time has come and the Lakers can get value in return I’d expect them to move him too.
We’ll never forget all that Fisher has done. His importance can’t be replaced by athleticism. His legacy is forged in iron, a resume even the self-proclaimed King himself wishes he had. I’m not saying Fisher was unimportant to this team. It’s just that his contributions aren’t so great that losing him will crush the franchise.
This is pro ball. We’re talking about the L.A. Lakers. A franchise that survived the departures of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley and yes…they’ll weather the Derek Fisher storm too.
This isn’t Boston where aging vets bemoan the loss of Kendrick Perkins, scapegoating their shortcomings on the front office.
If the Lakers lose every game from here out it will be because nobody in the locker room manned up and took the lead in Fisher’s wake.
Ask yourself, if D-Fish went down with a career-ending injury and the Lakers fell apart would you blame the injury or the lack of heart by the team?
No doubt it is a much different dynamic when the injury card is played compared to management kicking a guy out the backdoor. But no matter the particulars the facts remain the same. The season goes on and it’s up to the men still on the roster to step up.
Fisher had become a security blanket. His many shortcomings and continued loss of production overlooked when he dived for a loose ball or hit a game-winning shot. He was valued because Kobe listened to him. He was kept on scholarship because his presence meant more than his performance.
Problem is character doesn’t win titles. Right, Grant Hill? Yes, it helps but never will high character alone build a dynasty. Michael Jordan wasn’t exactly a model citizen and by all accounts Terrell Owens was a better teammate. How many rings did that #23 guy win in Chicago without a Derek Fisher type at his side?
I don’t mean at all to diminish what he’s meant to the Lakers. I’d argue #2 should never be worn again in Los Angeles. I’d also argue that if Kobe Bryant needs an interpreter like Fisher at his side to translate what the coaches are trying to communicate then this entire roster needs to be blown up.
This is officially Kobe’s team now. His voice must be the loudest and most centered. Thus far Bryant has met every challenge head-on and has had success at success at success. If he can’t find a way to take this situation and make the most of it then his lasting legacy will be the inability to win without…Derek Fisher…really?