As part of our “lockout relief” efforts, The Purple And Gold Blog will be profiling some of the past Laker role players that made made an impact on the team one way or another. This is Part 4 of the series.
Position: Power Forward/Small Forward
Height: 6′ 9″
Weight: 240 lbs.
Jersey Number: 7
College: Xavier University
Seasons with Lakers: 1995-96
Basketball is actually the second love for this L.A.-native, who was constantly seen racing the neighborhood streets in go-carts as kid. Strong wanted to join organized go-cart racing but his parents couldn’t afford it. That’s where basketball came in to play.
After graduating from Pacific Palisades High School, Derek attended Xavier and became one of the biggest key players in the 3 years he spent as a Musketeer. He led the team to their first “Sweet 16” berth and their most successful year ever by winning 28 games in one season during his senior year. What’s most interesting about his time at Xavier is he played as the starting center and averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
The Philadephia 76ers drafted Strong in the 2nd round (20th pick/47th overall) of the 1990 NBA draft, but he never stepped foot in the league until the 1991-92 season for the Milwaukee Bucks where he appeared in only 1 game. That’s because he opted to play in Spain instead after the draft for a year before he found himself with the USBL’s Miami Tropics.
Strong is a well-rounded and versatile forward, who can play both forward positions and center. He had a decent mid-range for a power forward and was also known as a clutch free-throw shooter despite his 79% average in the NBA. He signed a 1-year contract with the Lakers in the 1995-96 season and was part of a 3-man power forward rotation that included Corrie Blount and Anthony “Pig” Miller, who were all used to beef up the frontcourt after Sam Bowie‘s retirement.
He averaged 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game for the purple and gold. His best game as a Laker was against the Vancouver Grizzlies on Nov. 16, 1995 when he scored 13 points and nabbed 8 rebounds.
In his 10-year career in the NBA, Derek played for 6 teams (Bullets, Bucks, Celtics, Lakers, Magic and Clippers) with Orlando as his longest tenure with 4 seasons (1996-2000). He retired in 2001.
Strong is currently the co-founder and co-owner of Strong Racing. He has one of the first Black race team owners, the first Black race team ever to have female owners (Dawn Whitaker and Erica Hill), and is the first NBA player to successfully convert into professional stock car racing as both a driver (that’s right, a 6′ 9″ racer) and an owner in NASCAR.