November 22, 2011
He's been labeled one of the biggest NBA draft busts ever and most people haven't heard his name since he last played in the NBA five years ago.
But now born-again Christian and former lottery pick Marcus Fizer is out to remove the "bust" label from his name, return to the NBA and, oh yeah, build a second career as a minister.
That's why you'll now find Fizer, 33, in his hometown of Arcadia, La., where he is working out vigilantly for a return to the NBA hardwood (you know, once they actually resume play) while also serving as a youth minster at the local First Arcadia Church of God in Christ. Renewing his faith in October of 2010, he now gives sermons at the church where his guardian is the pastor, serves as the Sunday school superintendent and leads a youth hour each Wednesday. Fizer even has a Christian clothing line coming out.
"I'm at peace," Fizer said. "I'm living a great life with my family. I've gotten married. My wife and my kids are together... God took me to a place where he got a lot of people out of my life that weren't necessarily leading me down the right path."
And Fizer believes his new-found faith will help lead him back to the NBA, where he averaged just 9.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG in six seasons after being compared to Karl Malone when he was selected fourth overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2000 NBA draft.
"Five years from now, do I picture myself playing in the NBA again?" Fizer asked. "No question."
To do that, he will first need to prove himself overseas or in the NBA Development League. And Fizer has his work cut out for him with his relatively old age, concerns about his surgically repaired right knee and the fact he's barely played the last three seasons.
He most recently signed with an Israeli team last December, but it didn't work out due to an injury. Fizer said he's currently fielding offers from teams around the globe and sounds confident in his knee that has suffered three torn ACLs.
On his mission to reach the NBA again, Fizer is also intent on setting the record straight about his first go-round in the league, even requesting an interview himself to tell his side of the story.
[Related: Top 10 NBA Draft busts: Where are they now?]
While Fizer looked the part of a bad boy NBA player with his hulking muscles, menacing scowl and shaved head, it's clear from talking to him why he's been profiled as someone who is actually quiet and sensitive. Fizer describes his injury-riddled career over an hour-long interview, as if pleading to remove his name from NBA draft bust lists.
He's adamant that he should not be included in the list of flops from his 2000 draft class — of which there are plenty such as Stromile Swift(notes) and Darius Miles(notes) — because of the torn ACL injuries he suffered, once during his third season in the league, another one a year later and a third time four seasons later in Israel, he says.
"You have guys in my NBA draft or guys before and guys after me who have been completely healthy their whole entire career… that hadn't had as much as a twisted ankle in their career but sign huge deals and sit around and collect the money and never did anything," Fizer said. "Like I said, I tore my ACL three times and here I am, still playing, still fighting to do what I love."
Fizer's reaction to his reputation as a lazy player?
"My response was that being a total falseness…. Ask Tim Grover, he would scoff at that," Fizer said of the legendary trainer.
And his thoughts on being labeled a hot-head?
"Michael Jordan wasn't nobody's friend on the court," Fizer said. "And I played against Mike. And I've had Mike elbow me in the chest, in the mouth and all that different stuff and do some dirty things to win. I tell people all the time, he's one of the dirtiest players I ever played but since he's so great, that comes across as greatness."
In Fizer's defense, he averaged 11.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG over his first three seasons despite a bad situation in Chicago where he had to fight for playing time with Elton Brand(notes), Tyson Chandler(notes) and Eddy Curry(notes). The Bulls were awful and yet Fizer never averaged more than 26 minutes per game in any season. After the injuries, Fizer wasn't as effective and he was out of the league after three games with the New Orleans Hornets in the 2005-06 season.
But whether it's fair or not, the public doesn't make exceptions for injured players when it labels them "busts" (i.e. Greg Oden(notes)) and changing its collective opinion years after the fact is near impossible.
And fans are fair to openly wonder how much Fizer himself is to blame for his failings as he talks about the many mistakes he made off the court in Chicago like chasing women and hanging out late in clubs; Fizer says he accepts responsibility for "not being a consummate pro" at the time. In fact, Fizer thinks his injuries were a direct result of living an immoral life (which, by that reasoning, would also make him culpable for his own injuries).
"I took this as direct punishment [from God]," Fizer said. "You have to understand, I don't know where you are or other people are with religion, salvation and things of that nature. Having that relationship with him, you understand the things you go through. I did none of the things I was supposed to do and I did everything that I wanted."
And that's why Fizer is convinced that his new-found faith will lead him to "tremendous heights" on the basketball court now that he is training vigorously and has changed his life.
And if Fizer doesn't reach the NBA again? Well, he's already started his career in ministry and sounds at peace with a pro career that fell short of expectations, whatever the reason may be.
"I've got two sons that are crazy about sports," said Fizer, who has five total children. "Absolutely fanatic about sports. And if my career has gone the way that it's gone to help them [learn from it], to God be the glory."
Most popular on LostLettermen.com: