Editor's note: Rick Fox offers a unique view of the latest NBA Finals showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, having worn the uniforms of both teams. He was a Celtic from 1991 to '97 and a Laker from 1998 to 2004, winning three championships in purple and gold.
Looking at the tears welling up in the eyes of Derek Fisher as he stood on the court at TD Garden being interviewed after Game 3 of the NBA Finals, two other images of Fisher came to mind.
One was the last time Fisher left this court after an NBA Finals game. That was two years ago when the Boston Celtics handed the Lakers a humiliating 39-point defeat in the championship-clinching sixth game. Fisher and his teammates had to walk through a wild celebration conducted in a sea of green. It was painful.
You don't forget something like that.
The other image was from a month later at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. When the Celtics' Ray Allen accepted the award for Best Team, he was gloating as he looked into the camera and said, "Another win in L.A."
The next shot was of Derek in the audience. Even though the Lakers' defeat was being rubbed in his face, Derek had to sit there and look humble.
You don't forget something like that, either.
Now Derek and his teammates have been given the opportunity to redeem themselves and to do so on the same stage at TD Garden. A lot of times, you don't get a second chance in life.
Derek sure made the most of his in Game 3. He scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and stayed in Ray Allen's face all night.
Every time the Celtics would creep within a shot or two of catching the Lakers, Derek would hit a jumper or bank one in.
People always seem to act surprised when Derek comes up big. Yes, I know he'll be 36 in August, but he has proved time and again in this postseason that he can still produce at crunch time.
But Derek is in that company. I look at my three Lakers championship rings and I know he is one of the reasons I have them.
He can take particular pride in the fact that Ray Allen, who had an NBA Finals record eight 3-pointers in Game 2 and a total of 32 points, had only two points in Game 3 and was 0-for-13 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range.
Derek did a great job of putting his body on Allen and chasing him through screens all night long.
I thought we might see a shift in defensive philosophy after Allen's big performance in Game 2, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson stood pat by sticking with Derek.
I'm sure it was a combination of Derek's performance and his memory of the bitter times that caused the emotion to bubble to the surface after the final buzzer.
So for all those people who like surprises, just stand around and wait. Derek will show up. He always does.
And who knows? Maybe this year, Derek will be the one standing up at the ESPYS. If he is, you can be sure he'll handle himself with class, as he always does.