Any trip down memory lane often leads Derek Fisher someplace special. His recent appearance on Mohr Stories with comedian Jay Mohr was no different.
While Jay and Derek certainly shared some laughs, the wide-ranging interview connected on several key moments in his life and eventually delved into a more sensitive subject: fatherhood. Particularly Derek’s daughter Tatum.
At about 10 months old, Tatum was diagnosed with a form of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma. At the time, the cancer was extremely rare, especially in children. The Fisher family was given a choice: to remove Tatum’s left eye or try to save it. The odds were overwhelmingly in favor of removal, but that didn’t stop Derek and his wife from exhausting all options to find a solution to give their daughter the absolute best quality of life.
“As parents, we don’t want her to ask us later in life why she doesn’t have her left eye, without giving her the chance to keep it, that’s how we broke it down,” Fish recalls. “We don’t want her to not understand why she doesn’t have her eye and the fact that we didn’t do literally everything on earth possible for her to have both of her eyes.”
Derek’s personal trainer at the time, was a former navy seal and registered nurse and poured through medical journals until he found an experimental trial surgery that was not publicly known. Soon thereafter, the Fisher family was able to schedule surgery with Dr. Abramson of Sloan Kettering. It was new and innovative at the time, but there are now thousands of children all over the world who have received the same treatment and the very public nature of Derek’s daughter’s case is a big reason why.
“She was either child number eight or number nine, I personally like eight better,” he says. “Tatum’s story did more for this area of treatment in medicine than any doctor could have ever done because more doctors watch ESPN and read sports then they read those medical journals they have to read.”
Naturally, fatherhood wasn’t the only thing the two discussed. As an avid basketball fan, Mohr took Derek’s temperature on what’s going on around the NBA.
Derek’s playing days were also a topic of conversation. D-Fish is known for being one of the most well respected and likable Los Angeles Lakers players of all time, and their infamous triangle offense is always a topic of conversation. For his part, Derek believes the triangle will eventually have new life in the NBA. After all, the Lakers won five NBA championships running that same offense. It just has to be the right fit.
“A good offense fits everybody,” he says. “At some point you are going to see the exact same alignment in professional basketball that quote-unquote triangle offense is. It’s a sound offense. An offense that has a series of options.”
Mohr notes that it’s hard to find someone with a higher basketball IQ than D-Fish as the conversation turns to Derek’s tenure as coach of the New York Knicks. Although his tenure with the Knicks wasn’t what he hoped for, the pursuit of another coaching job is very much in Fish’s future plans.
“The most challenging part for me as a coach was not being able to – it’s almost similar to your children like you can’t force them to be something that they are not ready to be. I assumed every player wants to win, every player wants to give their best, everybody wants to win a championship. I quickly had to shift my perspective in terms of appreciating, you know, every guys journey, each guy’s life experiences and how they got to where they are. It was challenging, but I don’t regret at all.”
To listen to the entire podcast, check out Mohr Stories, Episode 434.