Former NBA player Derek Fisher had a stellar career in the NBA, playing 18 seasons in the professional league and winning five NBA championships. In honor of Veteran’s Day on November 11th, Derek Fisher partnered with USAA in the #HonorThroughAction Challenge where he encourages Americans to show their support for the United States military members.
In an exclusive interview with ClutchPoints, Fisher speaks on the importance of the military to him, his military father’s role in his life, the Lakers championship, the Sparks, and more.
Tomer Azarly: What are you doing with USAA and why is it important to you?
Derek Fisher: I think the goal is just to encourage all of us as Americans to step up and for those that are stepping up, they step up some more, to show support and love and appreciation for our military veterans. We have nearly 18 million living US military veterans and we just want to make sure the on this Veterans Day, we show more support than we ever have. It’s been a challenging year, but you know, let’s not wait for next year to show how we love our living military veterans while they are here. While we can celebrate them, let’s do it. The hashtag honor through action challenge is one of the ways we’re doing that this year. It’s a fun challenge, real quick and simple. You take a marker, sharpie, whatever. You draw a V for veterans on the palm of your hands. You have a friend or somebody take a quick photo. I know we’ve got some great selfie picture takers out there too. You hold up your V. You can use the initials of the veteran that you are supporting. I’m honoring my dad this year. I put that right in the middle of the V, take a photo, I share that a photo on my social media platforms. I use the hashtag honor through action and its just a quick fun way to show love and support for our military veterans. That’s it. That’s what we’re trying to do and I’m excited to have that opportunity.
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Veterans Day honors all of those who have served our country in war or peace — I would love to personally thank all our US veterans for their sacrifice. We are so indebted to your service. This Veterans Day I’m honoring John Fisher, Sergeant United States Air Force, Vietnam War Veteran (1968-1972) 6200 Security Police Squadron, Clark Air Force Base Philippines (1968-1970) 314th Security Police Squadron Little Rock Air Force Base(1970-1972) Security Police Investigator(1970-1972). Join me in drawing a V on your hand with the veteran you want to honor in @USAA #HonorThroughAction V Challenge #USAAPartner #VeteransDay #SalutetoService
Tomer Azarly: What kind of influence has your father had on you growing up:
Derek Fisher: I think his example of sacrifice. It was just a great example of someone that serving something and committing to something that is bigger than yourself. And in particular something so meaningful like the military, where you are risking your life for the health and safety of other lives. I don’t know if the commitment can get much greater. So just knowing his history, seeing that example. The way he lived his life where things didn’t always work out for him personally, but his job was to try and do the right thing for the group and that was just a great example for me to see personally. He tried to pass those things to me as best as possible.
Tomer Azarly: How did you apply that into your life with basketball?
Derek Fisher: Well, I think there are similar characteristics in terms of the level of discipline and commitment and focus that it takes, the self motivation, being a person that has an inner drive or a competitiveness, to be great at something, those are all characteristics that he embodied and that he tried to teach me through sports. You know, I played all sports as a kid. Basketball, football, baseball, soccer. I would swim at times, I played musical instruments. Like, it didn’t matter what it was academically or athletically, those principles were still priorities, and I think that without my dad’s leadership in those areas, being able to fight through of course the successful things I’ve been able to be a part of in life but also the mental fortitude and psychologically, being able to handle adversity or difficulties. Like that part of those things, my dad also really helped.
Tomer Azarly: Shifting to some basketball, you were a part of the Lakers last NBA title before this season. Thoughts on the newly-crowned NBA Champions?
Derek Fisher: It was great man. Especially this year, a really difficult, difficult year for everybody for many reasons. So I think to see them break through and see them get it done this year… It was a joy. They deserve a lot of credit. It took a lot of courage to get done and they’re in a position to possibly be one of the favorites to do it again next year so, you know, its great for LA, great for Lakers fans. Again, they deserve a lot of credit for seeing it all the way through.
Tomer Azarly: Could your era have endured a bubble format for part of the season and playoffs?
Derek Fisher: I think we could’ve endured it, but it was a different era right? So like, at that time, there wasn’t social media and so my guess is that the ability in terms of social media, interns oof streaming shows and platforms for entertainment. All of those things, I’m sure, contributed to the experience for ht players in this situation. I think we could’ve endured it, but it definitely would’ve been challenging and again, that’s why everybody deserves a lot of credit for figuring it out.
Tomer Azarly: Could you sense the players wanted to do it for Kobe?
Derek Fisher: Not being right next to those guys in Orlando, I’m not speaking form direct experience, but I can tell from the things that they said in their interviews, the way the they spoke of it, I think Frank Vogel’s leadership in that regard was off the charts. I think finding a way to utilities it as motivation in the right way and I think it was clear that it did mean something to those players on the team this year. They didn’t overhype it ad I think take away the seriousness of what it meant to lose him, but I do believe they held on to his memory and legacy in the right way. I think it helped him at times. Obviously just some observations, but those guys, they spoke to it themselves quite a bit and I think they were able to find some positives and being able to hold onto what he meant to all of us.
Tomer Azarly: What’s the next step for you and your Sparks?
Derek Fisher: I think the next step for us is really taking some time to assess and evaluate where we want our organization to go and what we want our team to represent. Every time our team steps on the court, our players are showing and representing examples of who we are as an organization. There’s some continuity and consistency in that. And so, whether its players that are free agents, players that were traded for, our style of play, that there is in alignment with these things and so I think that’s the next step for us. We’re gonna have change to be competitive every year because our ownership is committed to make sure we have the right resources but w need to make sure that our performance is consistent with who we are.And so I think thats the next step from being one of the top two or three teams record wise to let that carry over into the postseason, we have to met sure we’re putting our team together right way and that everybody in our organization is going in the right direction.
Tomer Azarly: How you balance it being a championship or bust year vs. building your team?
Derek Fisher: I think it’s both, right? I do believe both are possible, that you n have a team that is capable of competing for a championship and at the same time building towards the best version of who we are. We had enough talent this year to win championship, but it’s not about just the talent aspect of it. I think those teams that you mentioned whether its Seattle, Washington, even what Connecticut [does], those coaches, their front offices. There’s a consistency for who they are and how they operate. Mike Thibault has a great program in Washington, Dan Hughes has done a phenomenal job in Seattle, Kurt Miller has build a great program, so those guys have been there for 5 years, 7 years, 8 years or more, and so they’ve been able to establish a vision that I think everybody else can come in and be held to. And that’s the work that we have to do while still finding a way to be competitive.