Lakers Daily Exclusive: Derek Fisher Addresses LeBron G.O.A.T. Talk, Rajon Rondo and Team’s 2020 Title Run

Ryan Ward
13 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers are officially NBA champions once again with LeBron James and company battling through the rigors of a chaotic season that ended in a complicated bubble environment in Orlando, Fla.

With it being a month since the Lakers lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the 17th time in the franchise’s history, five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher spoke with Lakers Daily about his former team winning it all 10 years after he won his last ring while playing alongside Kobe Bryant.

Along with reflecting on the Lakers’ incredible championship run, Fisher also opened up about a number of different topics, including partnering with USAA for Veterans Day.

Ryan Ward: You are teaming up with USAA for Veterans Day. Can tell us about what you are doing and how others can participate?

Derek Fisher: For Veterans Day, we are encouraging all Americans to step up and just show support. There are nearly 18 million living U.S. military veterans, and we want to show love and show support for them this Veterans Day. So we’re going to be celebrating the third annual #HonorThroughAction challenge, and that challenge is real fun, real simple.

You can use a sharpie and draw the letter “V” on the palm of your hand. You can put initials for who you’re celebrating — a veteran in your life like my father John. You would put the initials of “JF” there. You snap a photo and you share it on your social media using that hashtag (#HonorThroughAction), and it’s just a cool way and a fun way to show your love and appreciation for our military veterans that are still living, still here with us on this Veterans Day. I’m excited for the opportunity to partner with USAA.

RW: So your Lakers are champs once again! What is it like seeing them win the title 10 years after you won?

DF: It’s a reminder of how fast time flies when you think about 10 years ago was the last time the Lakers won the championship and me being fortunate enough to be a member of those teams. So it’s a reminder of how quickly life moves, but also a reminder of how special that opportunity is, and I think this team, in particular, this year in 2020, they deserve a lot of credit and respect and admiration for what they were able to accomplish.

Staying together as a team mentally and physically and keeping themselves focused on the greater goal says a lot. Coaches, players and staff deserve a lot of credit.

RW: What do you think Kobe Bryant would be like in this NBA bubble environment? Would your championship team be more locked in than ever or would you be going crazy with 100 days together?

DF: Probably both. I’m sure all the kids there went through a little bit of both. I think there are some positives and some negatives. Each player on your team is a different guy or a different girl, so how that player responds to the different experiences in the bubble.

Some players are not as good when they’re super locked in. They kind of need those outlets and those things that allow them to kind of come out their bunker so to speak like they don’t have to be so locked in every single minute of the day. When you take those things away and you put that player into a situation where they have to be locked in the whole time they’re sometimes not as good.

Kobe, though, to that part of it, I think he would’ve found a way to be just fine. Similar to guys that operate at that level. LeBron [James]. You saw what Anthony Davis was able to do and some great players in the league they still find a way to be great, and Kobe would’ve been the same.

RW: Do you think this title thrusts LeBron more into the G.O.A.T. conversation?

DF: Anytime you win and you’re successful, it elevates your status. It elevates the way people see you and admire what you’ve accomplished.

For me, in terms of LeBron, it’s not just the winning of the championships. You can’t ignore statistically what he’s doing and when you start to average out where he’s going to end up at the end of his career and every single meaningful stat category, it’s going to be hard to say that he isn’t one of the greatest players of all time.

It’s just going to depend on the debate in terms of different eras and the way the game was played and how the game was officiated and all these different things that people can say, but he’s definitely moving higher and higher into a very, very short list of guys that can be considered the greatest player to ever play basketball.

RW: Was it weird seeing an old rival in Rajon Rondo win the title in a Lakers uniform after you beat him when he was wearing a Celtics uniform 10 years ago?

DF: It was a little different, but I think we’ve gotten used to seeing a little more player movement. Obviously, LeBron coming from different places and now being a Laker player.

I think it was a great moment for a player like Rondo. Everybody for a long time has believed that you have to have these amazing stats to be considered a championship-caliber player. I know from my experience, you can make positive contributions to a team without being a guy that jumps off the stat sheet, and I think Rondo who on a lot of nights has good stats, I just think this championship continues to reinforce the value that he brings to his teams because of his I.Q., unselfishness and competitive spirit.

It’s a little different, but I can appreciate the player and the way he goes about his business, and I can leave the green jersey to the side for now (laughs).

RW: What player, if any, on this Lakers championship team reminds you of yourself?

DF: That’s a good question. Probably Alex Caruso. I think a guy that doesn’t do a lot of things that always jump off the stat sheet, but has become so valuable to the team for what he does.

I think of guys like KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), that again the nights where maybe he doesn’t shoot it as well or fans have a lot to say about whether KCP is this or that, but he’s proven himself to be a guy that brings a lot of value to the Lakers. He had a really good playoff run and Finals run.

Those are the two guys that kind of come to mind in terms of their role and what they were able to help the team get accomplished based on who they are.

RW: Who were you impressed the most by during the whole NBA bubble experience?

DF: I think we’re always still amazed by LeBron’s level based on his years of experience and his age. Anthony Davis was obviously able to do some amazing things.

What’s really impressive is the younger guys around the league that are doing great things as well. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Tyler Herro and some of these other guys that are young players that really find a way to not just play well, but be some of the best players in the league.

I think that’s an incredible feat and for the league that’s a really good place to be in right now.

RW: First it was the Lakers. A few weeks later it was the Dodgers. Are the Sparks the next team to win it all in L.A.?

DF: That’s my hope for sure (laughs)! That is definitely my hope.

The Lakers are going to start back up and they might be done again before our season is done with the NBA starting back up in December. They’re going to be done by the time we get to the Summer Olympics in July and our season will still be going into September, so the Lakers may have won two championships by the time we win one (laughs).

Either way, that’s a goal for sure is to continue to add to this L.A. momentum of championships here in the city.

RW: Do you think you’ll ever return to coaching in the NBA?

DF: I don’t know, man. I love the game. I love investing in the game. It has provided me with so many amazing opportunities. I think right now the best thing that I can do is to stay laser-focused on where I am and what I’m doing at this moment and that is coaching and working with these women.

The Sparks provided me an opportunity for me to continue to coach and be involved in the game in the way that I am, so hopefully, there will be time down the line to think about what’s next.

We’ve lost a lot of people this year. Obviously, losing Kobe specifically this year, I can’t worry about what might be next. It’s really about giving yourself completely to where you are now. That’s what I’m doing with the Sparks and I’m enjoying it.

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Ryan is a veteran sportswriter who has covered the NBA and NFL for nearly a decade. Along with numerous exclusive interviews with professional athletes, Ryan has been credentialed by the Los Angeles Lakers since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWardLA.