Lakers legend Derek Fisher shares epic welcome-to-the-NBA moment with Nick Van Exel
A lot of past and present players in the NBA remember the first time they knew they were playing on the highest level of basketball. Five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers legend, Derek Fisher, is no different as he remembers exactly when he knew just how competitive it would be on the elite level.
Following the Lakers taking down the New Orleans Pelicans on the road on Sunday night, Fisher, current Spectrum SportsNet analyst, was asked if he remembered his first welcome-to-the-NBA moment. He didn’t hesitate to tell a story that involved former Lakers, Nick Van Exel, and Magic Johson.
“Mine happened before training camp even started up at UCLA playing pick-up in the summer,” Fisher said on Spectrum SportsNet. “Nick Van Exel and a bunch of guys were up there, so I’m guarding Nick and Magic is on the sideline. He’s watching the game and Nick is just cooking. Just going after me every possession and Magic is over the sideline, ‘Ooh, don’t do him like that, Quick!’ This is Magic Johnson enjoying me getting super crossed up by Nick. I had only seen Nick on TV. I had never played against him and I was like, ‘Okay, this is how this goes.'”
Before Kobe Bryant became a superstar in Los Angeles, Van Exel was the star of the show for the purple and gold. In fact, Van Exel is the type of player that would flourish in today’s game with style all his own. He could stretch the floor with his outside shooting, cause havoc with his speed, passing, and ballhandling ability, and be the player the team could lean on in a clutch situation.
Ironically enough, Fisher’s stint in Los Angeles would last much longer than Van Exel’s. The Lakers ultimately traded Van Exel to the Denver Nuggets for Tony Battie and Tyronn Lue. He proceeded to bounce around the league following that trade but left an impression on Lakers fans, as well as Fisher, as one of the few stars to shine between the Showtime to Kobe-Shaq era.