Remembering a Play: Derek Fisher and the Closest Buzzer Beater Ever

Sports Remembering a Play
Remembering a Play: Derek Fisher and the Closest Buzzer Beater Ever

I have taken enough shots at the Los Angeles Lakers in Splinter sports’s young life that we really do need to introduce some balance. It brings me no pleasure to speak positively of those golden-clad schmucks out west, but this play is awesome enough that it’s still worth remembering, even with the Laker stink on it.

With the second-round of the playoffs closing out in games I attended and will see every night in my nightmares for the rest of my life, this is a good time to remember another famed second-round series, which proved the established physical boundaries of what the NBA deems a shot worthy of beating the buzzer.

In 1990, New York Knicks guard Trent Tucker hit a buzzer beater with 0.3 seconds remaining to win, and the Chicago Bulls filed an official protest saying he did not get it off in time. The NBA later established that any catch-and-shoot buzzer beater can start at no later than 0.4 seconds, also known as the Tucker rule, and fourteen years later, Derek Fisher proved their math correct.

The two dynasties defining the early 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and the San Antonio Spurs led by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, squared off in a second-round contest many looked at as the de facto Western Conference Finals at the time.

After losing the first two games in San Antonio, the Lakers took the next two in Los Angeles, setting up a pivotal Game 5 in San Antonio that featured one of the craziest endings to a game you will ever see. We are remembering Derek Fisher’s shot with 0.4 seconds left, but had he missed it, Tim Duncan’s crazy shot before it that should have won the game would be a fine candidate to Remember a Play too.

Even as a certified Laker hater I have to admire Derek Fisher’s skill. That is bonkers. I remember watching it at the time as a high school kid and feeling like the Lakers genuinely had some sort of magic powers. This was as inevitable as they ever felt to me throughout that entire dynasty. Tim Duncan called game. That should have been it. I don’t care what the NBA says, you shouldn’t even be able to get a shot off that quickly.

But alas, Derek Fisher did, and he proved that the architects of the Trent Tucker rule were empirically correct. Every angle of this replay reveals that had there been 0.3 seconds remaining, the ball still would have been in Fisher’s hand.

The Lakers went on to win Game 6, and then they beat Kevin Garnett’s Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals. Everyone assumed that the dynasty which had three-peated just two years ago would pick right up where they left off in the NBA Finals, but the Detroit Pistons had other ideas en route to shocking the world and beating the Lakers in five games, proving to kids like me that Kobe and Shaq are not inevitable.

Personally, I cannot thank the Pistons enough for doing so, because otherwise we’d never hear the end of the greatness of 0.4 seconds, and Lakers fandom does not need any more reasons to be more insufferable than it already is. That’s as nice of a remembering a Laker play as you’ll get from me Los Angeles, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go placate my basketball sorrows by remembering a couple of Jamal Murray buzzer beaters.

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