OAKLAND — It started with what would be considered by others the most unremarkable of sensations. A tingling. That was it. A slight tingling in his right thumb. Easy to ignore for others, but it set off bells and whistles for Chris Fisher. It was 2001, and it was the first time in a month Fisher felt his body below his neck.
Thus it began, the journey, when a boy became a man, when a kid was forced to grow up, it seemed, almost overnight, when everything about him was paralyzed except his mind.
“There’s no scientific explanation for this,” said Fisher, 34. He still doesn’t know why he can physically do this: He will walk into every NBA arena this season with a black cane in his right hand, his stiff left leg moving against its will, creating a halting gait.
Fisher will walk and people will talk. Pro basketball is a game of high flyers, and NBA fans would be surprised to learn Fisher has accomplished more than anyone on the floor, even if he can’t jump an inch. The Rohnert Park native is the television play-by-play announcer for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“You hear that people have to be a certain age to do this,” Fisher said. Age is a barrier? Age is an obstacle? What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis? Please, save yourself the embarrassment and don’t pose those questions to Chris Fisher. Fisher knows real obstacles, real barriers. Too young? Actually, he’s both young and old.
“I move around like an 85-year-old with the cane,” he said before the Warriors’ opener vs. the Thunder on Tuesday. “And I’ve never been happier.”
Doing what he always wanted to do, Fisher pinches himself at his good fortune. That alone is significant because, well, he can feel the pinch. It hurts so good.
It was Oct. 26, 2001, the night before the homecoming game at Cardinal Newman. A junior at Newman, Fisher was in the front passenger seat of an Acura Legend. A buddy was driving. Another buddy was in the back seat. The trio were on Chileno Valley Road west of Petaluma.
“I was looking at some compact discs,” Fisher said.
At the very last second, Fisher looked up to see the Acura entering the curve too fast. The car went off the road and flipped hard on its roof. Fisher was pancaked. His first thought didn’t capture what was to happen next.
“Oh no,” Fisher thought to himself, “I’m going to have to call my parents and tell them I was in an accident.”
In less than five minutes, he guesses, that thought became a forgettable understatement. Now upside down, his knees pressed to his chest, the roof above him had collapsed upon him, pinning Fisher to his seat. He tried to move. That’s when reality came crushing in on him.
“I couldn’t move my legs,” he said. Worse still, he realized he couldn’t feel them. Fisher couldn’t feel anything. He nonetheless struggled. “I wanted to get the hell out of the car.” Fisher was 17, an avid snow skier. He played soccer. In great shape. He was an athlete. And, remember, he was 17. Just seconds before Fisher was looking at CDs IN HIS HANDS, for criminy sakes.