With Trail Blazers point guard Andre Miller suspended for a flagrant foul on Blake Griffin, Derek Fisher's participation in Tuesday's game against the Washington Wizards didn't just help spark a win. It meant playing a 434th consecutive game, which makes him the leader among active NBA players. (The granddaddy of all iron men, A.C. Green, holds the all-time record with 1,192 straight contests.) I asked Fisher after the game what the streak meant to him and as is often the case, his comments reflected a mindset aware of a picture bigger than his own:
"There's a lot of people in this country and around the world that make that decision every day. I take a lot of pride in it from that perspective. Not really about me personally or athletically what it means but, I watched my parents and my dad and my mom wake up every morning and go to work when they had to.
"It's more so that to me than about playing 400-plus basketball games... There are a lot of days as an athlete where you physically shouldn't even be out there. But when you remember those days when your uncle or grandmother or somebody had to catch the bus to get a ride to get to work, you can't use a sore back or a sore neck or a sore ankle as an excuse to not go out and lace them up."
This wasn't necessarily the response I expected, but the sentiments were anything but surprising. Fisher is a hardhat kinda dude, and folks donning hard-plastic chapeaus appreciate the universal language of work ethic. Fish grew up watching family members toil at jobs considerably more difficult and less glamorous (not to mention, less lucrative) than his gig. With that in mind, the least he can do is be appreciative enough of this good fortune not to ask out unless his body makes it humanly impossible.
It's actually pretty fitting this honor would grace Fish's resume, because it ultimately symbolizes what he's about as a player and a person: Accountability.
Accountability in the way he gravitates towards leadership roles, whether on the court, in the locker room or as President of the Player's Association. Accountability in the way he lives for shots and moments with the most pressure attached. Accountability in the way he's among the best conditioned athletes in the NBA. And accountability in a manner as simple (yet ultimately profound) as just showing up game in and game out and demanding an honest day's work from himself while physically capable.
It ain't always easy, but the alternative is never an option.
Fans will debate Fisher's worth as a point guard until the cows come home, but what can't be questioned is his dedication. 434 games without a break is just another piece of evidence.