Former NBA player Derek Fischer had a busy career in the NBA, played 18 seasons in the pro competition and won five NBA championships. In honor of Veterans Day on the 11th. November Derek Fisher became a USAA partner in the #HonorThroughAction Challenge, where he calls on Americans to show their support to the U.S. Army.
In an exclusive interview with ClutchPoints Fischer talks about the importance of the army for him, the role his military father played in his life, the Lakers championship, the Sparks and much more.
Tomer Azarli: What do you do with the USAA and why is it important to you?
Derek Fisher: I think the goal is simply to encourage all Americans to take a step forward and show their support, love and gratitude to those who are one step ahead of our military veterans. We have nearly 18 million U.S. military veterans alive, and we just want to make sure we show more support than ever before on Veterans’ Day. It’s been a tough year, but you know, let’s not wait until next year to show how much we love our military veterans while they’re here. We can celebrate, but let’s do it. The Hashtag Honour Through Action Challenge is one of the ways we are meeting this year. It’s an entertaining test, very quick and easy. Get a marker, a sander, anything. You draw a V for veterans in the palm of your hand. You have a friend or someone you want to photograph. I know we have great selfish photographers here. You keep your V. You can use the initials of the veteran you support. This year I pay homage to my father. I put it in the middle of the V, take a picture and share it on my social networks. I use hashtag honour through action and it’s just a quick and fun way to show the love and support of our military veterans. Here we go. That’s what we’re trying to do, and I’m glad we get the chance to do it.
Tomer Azarli: What influence did your father have on you when you were young?
Derek Fisher: I think his example of sacrifice was just a wonderful example of someone serving something and being committed to something more than you. And especially something as important as the army, where you risk your life for the health and safety of others. I don’t know if the stakes can be much higher. So, just by knowing his history, just by seeing this example. The way he lived his life, where things didn’t always go well for him personally, but it was his job to try to do what was good for the band and that was just a good example for me personally. He tried to give me this thing as best he could.
Tomer Azarli: How did you apply that to your life as a basketball player?
Derek Fisher: Well, I think there are similar characteristics in terms of the level of discipline and commitment and focus on what is needed, self-motivation, inner desire or competition to be great at something, these are all characteristics that he embodied and that he tried to teach me through sport. You know, when I was a kid, I used to play all kinds of sports. Basketball, soccer, baseball, soccer. I went swimming and played a musical instrument once in a while. For example, whatever the scientific or sporting field, these principles always had priority, and I think that without the advice of my father in these areas, who was of course able to fight to succeed, I was able to be a part of life, but also mentally strong and psychologically able to deal with setbacks or difficulties. As far as that part of things is concerned, my father was very helpful.
Tomer Azarli: With the move to basketball, you were part of the Lakers’ last NBA title until this season. Any idea about the new NBA champions?
Derek Fisher: He was a great man. Especially this year, which has been very difficult for everyone for many reasons. So I think if I see them make the breakthrough, and if I see them make it this year… It was a joyous occasion. They deserve a lot of praise. It took a lot of courage to do it and they could probably be among the favourites to do it again next year, so, you know, it’s great for LA, great for the Lakers fans. Again, they deserve a lot of praise for their success.
Tomer Azarli: Could your era have endured part of the season and the playoffs?
Derek Fisher: I guess we could have survived, but that was another time, wasn’t it? At that time there was no social network, so I think there is an opportunity in terms of social networks, streaming interns and entertainment platforms. All this undoubtedly contributed to the experience of the HT players in this situation. I think we can handle it, but it would certainly be difficult, so everyone deserves a lot of praise for their understanding.
Tomer Azarli: Do you think the players wanted to do this for Kobe?
Derek Fisher: Since I’m not surrounded by these guys in Orlando, I’m not speaking from direct experience, but I can say from what they said in their interviews, from the way they talked about it, that Frank Vogel’s leadership has been overwhelming in this respect. I think you have to find a way to use it as a motivation in the right direction, and I think it was clear that it really meant something to the players on the team this year. They didn’t overreact in the publicity, I think we should take seriously what it meant to lose him, but I think they kept his memory and his legacy in the right direction. I think it helped him sometimes. A few comments, of course, but these guys have talked to him a bit and I think they’ve been able to find some good things about him and stick to what he meant to all of us.
Tomer Azarli: What’s next for you and your sparks?
Derek Fisher: I think the next step for us is to really spend some time evaluating where our organization needs to go and what we want to represent with our team. Every time our team takes the field, our players show and present examples of who we are as an organisation. There is a certain continuity and sustainability here. And so, whether it’s players who are free agents, players who have been replaced, our style of play that suits those things, so I think that’s the next step for us. So I think the next step for one of the top two or three teams that have set a record for the post-season is to get the confidence that we are building our team well and that everyone in our organization is going in the right direction.
About being champion or a season of bankruptcy or about playing the challenger?
Tomer Azarli: How do you reconcile a championship or a year of bankruptcy with the composition of your team?
Derek Fisher: I guess it’s both, isn’t it? I think that it is possible that you have a team capable of fighting for the Championship and at the same time build a better version of who we are. This year we had enough talent to win the championship, but it’s not just about the talent aspect. I think the teams you mentioned Seattle, Washington, even what Connecticut does, those coaches, their headquarters. There is a coherence in their identity and way of working. Mike Thibault has a great program in Washington, Dan Hughes has a phenomenal job in Seattle, Kurt Miller has a great program, so these guys have been there for 5 years, 7 years, 8 years or more, so they’ve been able to create a vision that I think anyone can come up with. And that is the task we have to accomplish while still finding a way to be competitive.