Batman has Robin, Mario has Luigi and Kobe Bryant has Derek Fisher, his under-the-radar sidekick who has been through the trenches and title runs with him from day one of his NBA career – literally.
Bryant and Fisher were both drafted in 1996, Kobe by the Charlotte Hornets and Derek taken 24th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers.
After Bryant was traded to Los Angeles, they instantly developed a friendship and would eventually become great teammates and even better friends, despite Fisher’s brief stints with the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz from 2004 to 2007.
Off the court, Fisher served as Bryant’s crutch during his 2003 sexual assault case. Bryant mostly kept to himself during those tough times, but when he needed a confidant, Fisher provided that support system.
Fisher’s support, however, has largely been levied on the court.
In 2007, Fisher returned to Los Angeles after the Jazz admirably granted his request to be released from his contract in order to relocate to a team and city that would have the “right combination” of specialists to help fight his daughter’s rare eye cancer. That summer, the Lakers signed Fisher in hopes of calming down the then-furious Bryant, who asked to be traded after the Lakers were bounced from the first round of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Even though they would go on to lose in the Finals the following year, the Lakers emerged as the favorite to win the West in the 2008-09 season with a full year of Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza, as well as a healthy Andrew Bynum. And that is exactly what they did, en route to their 15th Larry O’Brien Trophy and Bryant and Fisher’s fourth ring together.
While Bryant won his first Finals MVP award that season, it was Fisher who knocked down two clutch threes – one to send the game into overtime and another with 30 seconds left in the extra session to break a tie – sealing Game 4 and paving the way for the series-clinching blowout in Game 5.
Two weeks ago, with the Lakers down four at home against the Heat, Fisher nailed a trey that cut Miami’s lead to one with just over four seconds remaining in regulation, setting up Bryant’s game-winning, three-point circus act that extended the Lakers’ winning streak to eight games.
And then on Wednesday night in Milwaukee, a double-teamed Bryant deferred to his wide open partner-in-crime, who calmly knocked down a jump shot to give the Lakers a 95-93 lead with half a minute to go in a game the Lakers would ultimately win on Bryant’s overtime buzzer-beater.
Amid his aforementioned assault case, his feuds with Shaquille O’Neal and his transition from a teenage NBA player to a world champion, MVP and Olympic gold medalist, Bryant has come a long way in hopping over the “All-Time Greatest Players” fence.
Without Fisher there to give him a boost, Bryant may still be struggling to get over it.
Josh Hoffman is a college junior working to become a sports journalist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter here.
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Written by Josh Hoffman