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Derek Fisher hails from a city with a population just under 200,000 people. On Tuesday morning, the 39-year old from Little Rock, Arkansas accepted a position as head coach for the Knicks in the most populous city in the United States.
It’s been a remarkable journey, but don’t get it twisted, this is not a fairy tale story of a small fish landing in a big pond.
Fisher earned a Sunbelt Conference Player of the Year award to conclude a standout, four-year career at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. The Lakers took notice of his collegiate achievements and the historic franchise used its 24th overall pick on Fisher in 1996.
In and out of the starting lineup, next to Kobe Bryant in the backcourt and Shaquille O’Neal anchoring the paint, Fisher helped the Lakers renew their dynasty and capture three straight NBA Championships from 2000-2002. After short stints in Golden State and Utah, Fisher returned to Los Angeles, joining forces with Bryant and Jackson once again to secure two more titles.
Remarkably, five championships will not necessarily define Fisher’s playing career. He will forever be remembered for 0.4 seconds. In 2004, Fisher buried a fading 18-foot jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining on the game clock to provide a miraculous Game 5 victory for the Lakers in San Antonio.
The shot known as “.4” sent Fisher into the NBA history books to go along with a myriad of memorable and clutch moments throughout his 18-year career. He shared court time with superstars such as Kobe, Shaq, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and orchestrated the triangle offense under the most decorated coach in NBA history.
Aside from the sweet left-handed jumper, sturdy 6-1 frame, and NBA hardware, Fisher is recognized as one of the great leaders in the sport. He served as the union president for the NBPA during the tumultuous 2011 labor lockout, assisting in the agreement that saved the season.
“He’s a great motivator, great speaker and can really relate to a lot of guys and demands that respect from everybody. He’s a great locker-room guy. I’m sure he’ll do a great job,” Durant told reporters during this year’s NBA playoffs.
A calm demeanor, experience dealing with high-profile personalities, a history of championship success, and a mentor alongside him in the front office sounds like the right recipe for a rookie head coach.
Above all, Fisher has consistently delivered at the highest level on the big stage and under the bright lights. The Knicks now welcome the big fish to the big pond.