I'm almost ashamed to admit this now, but I used to hate Derek Fisher. I mean, he was a Laker for god's sake...and that made him The Enemy. Watching Derek Fisher break down and cry after the the Spurs eliminated the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals was seriously one of my happiest moments of my basketball-watching life. Conversely, watching Fisher hit The Shot That Dethroned The Spurs in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals was one of the worst, and it only made me hate him all the more.

When Fisher left Los Angeles for Golden State, I laughed with devilish glee, because not only did it signal the glorious end of the Lakers' mini-dynasty, it also meant that he was doomed to under-perform on a crappy team...a fitting end for someone so reviled.

But then he went to Utah Jazz, a team I quietly root for year after year. I was decidely not happy, especially this season when the team appeared strong but doomed by Fisher's inability to stick opposing 2-guards on defense (seriously, Derek gave up a half-dozen 50-point games). I even went so far as to tell a friend, who's a Lakers fan, that Fisher was "my Smush Parker."

Well, I was wrong, okay?

Fisher's a true leader with a huge heart. He's also a brave and loving father.

Yesterday, he scored 21 points -- 14 of which came in the 4th quarter -- to help the Jazz stick a knife in the hearts of the upstart Warriors and their rabid fans. What made the win even more amazing was the fact that it happened in Oakland, where nobody was supposed to be able to win this postseason. In fact, Baron Davis became so unhinged he took a cheap shot in the form of a Macho Man Randy Savage-esque elbow smash across Fisher's mug. That was followed later by a Jason Richardson clothesline on Mehmet Okur, and suddenly the Warriors had transformed from the babyface to the heel.

But none of that is important. What's really important is what I have to say right here and now:

Derek? I'm sorry.

Excuse me, Derek. How did you
become so freaking awesome?

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