Derek Fisher could have taken more money and gone with the latest, flashy option and signed a deal with the Miami Heat. Instead, he took less money to stay at home, and finish what he’s started with the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, Fisher’s three-year, $10.5 million deal will net him less money per year than his soon-to-be backup Steve Blake. Blake recently inked a four-year, $16 million deal to run the Lakers’ second unit.
By returning to the Lakers, Fisher proved he understands something that LeBron James seems to have missed. It’s not about hype, or flash, it’s about substance and finishing what you’ve started. Fisher has always been a Laker, and will always be remembered as a Laker. He knew what he needed to do was return to the backcourt with Kobe Bryant, and be in Los Angeles for coach Phil Jackson’s last year in the NBA.
Fisher said there was one person he couldn’t turn down, and that was Bryant.
“At the end of the day, there’s one person I could not turn away from. Kobe Bryant asked me to stay but supported whatever decision I made. He and I have played together for 11 seasons, came into the league together as kids, and has been loyal to me even when others had doubts.”
Fisher left the Lakers once before, when the Golden State Warriors offered him a ridiculous six-year, $37 million contract. He had to leave and take his money, it was the right thing to do for his family.
After two years with the Warriors, he was traded to the Utah Jazz, where after one year Fisher actually asked to be let out of his contract because his daughter needed expert medical care that she could only get in a major city. So he returned to the Los Angeles and the Lakers for far less money than he had been making. He gave up nearly $8 million dollars to return to the Lakers and give his daughter a chance at survival from a rare form of retinoblastoma.
See, LeBron, that’s called loyalty. Bryant and Fisher care about one another, and are willing to make sacrifices for each other because they want to continue to accomplish things together. If Fisher left the Lakers probably could have picked up a quicker, younger point guard, which would have made defensive assignments easier on Bryant. But no, since day one of free agency, Bryant has been vocal about the need for Fisher to return.
It’s not about what’s best for Bryant, it’s about what’s best for the team. And having Derek Fisher’s presence on the Lakers’ roster is what’s best for the team and the franchise.
Could Fisher have pulled a crybaby move and complained that Blake got more money than him? Yeah, absolutely. Did he? Nope. He realized the business of the game meant that a backup who could shoot would cost the team money and that if he took more cash it would make it even more difficult to fill out the team’s roster.
Instead of leaving a team and city that has embraced him for years, he took less money to stay and finish the job. Maybe if the Miami Heat meet the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 2011, LeBron will look across the court and see what loyalty can get you as Fisher and Kobe complete their second three-peat.