Thursday, March 24, 2011
STRAIGHT FROM THE FOX HOLE
In the latest of our 'LAKERS LEGACY' series we look at Rick Fox, who's defensive trap set off the three-peat.
By Tim David Harvey
Who says the only way you make a mark on a basketball game is on the box-score? Who says championship role players are just average guys catching a lucky break and the coat-tails of a superstar? To those, take a look at the basketball career of Rick Fox and say that again. Lost for words? That's because like the opponents he faced, one-on-one you got nothing on Rick.
Rick had it all, offence, defence and X and O's. Sure he was no superstar, but he embraced his role and that's what made him the star of all role players. He could score 20 on his night, but at the same still make an impact on the boards and opposite end of the court, even if registering a zero like he was a DNP-CD. This coaches favourite hero could steal, block, dish and score in all sort of ways. From dunks, lay-ups to treys Rick found his shot, all because he could find himself on the floor. Fox went to the Magic Johnson, Laker legend school of knowing the floor and Rick knew his like a team leader. No wonder he was such a positive influence. His hard work and hustle however was his bread and butter. His passion allowed him to be a potent force on the court.
Sure in the early 2000's, three-peat Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant may have had the stardom and Derek Fisher and Robert Horry the big shot fame, but that didn't leave Fox out the limelight. Were not talking about this double-threats Hollywood career either because beyond 'He Got Game', 'Blue Chips' and 'One Tree Hill' this was no act, Rick could play. Even when Payton and Malone arrived Rick was no fifth Beatle. He was a significant other like Vanessa Williams or Eliza Dushku. Right before Bynum became 17, the original number 17 Laker was putting up numbers and other fundamentals that went beyond statistics but could be measured by the sweat in his jersey and the ice water in his veins.
Maybe it was this Canadians upbringing in the terrific city of Toronto that made him able to withstand anything or anyone, whatever the weather. This maple syrupy, smooth class act was all smiles off-court but not afraid to shed the 'Mr. Nice Guy' persona when it came to the crunch time of any game, big or small. Fox sent opponents due south, the Lakers had to thank him kindly. Maybe it was the tar he picked up on his heels as part of a legendary North Carolinian alumni that made him such a professional, or maybe it was his time at Boston that made him tougher and stronger then Irish whiskey. After being drafted by the Celtics in the early 90's Fox not only learnt from the best, he was next. The Lake Showtime of the 80's and the Lakers of now could have sure used and used the tough mettle of a guy like Rick.
Ask anybody, especially in Sacramento about how frustrated Rick's tough, no-b.s. play made them. Rick was willing to get his hands dirty, but he always did what it took to help his team and he was always fair as fair, by champion standards. You see Rick's harassing, restraining-order defence was the Lakers x-factor along with Phil Jackson's zen, Horry's clutch, Fishers streak, Shaq's strength and everything about Kob's game. Fox's input went beyond his impressive, balanced 6.1 points per game, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists playoff averages or his 8,966 career points. Rick proved best outside of the stat-sheet for all he did and all the statistics and box-score showings he prevented for other teams. Namely, points, rebounds, assists etc. The things that make up a basketball game. Fox was on them and his opponents like white on rice.
Just ask Doug Christie who fought him or any other player how agitating and frustrating this play was. Even Peja paid the cost as Rick Fox was like Rick Ross, the boss, or like Springsteen with the shaggy hair, tougher then the rest. Rick owned his competition. Pushing, shoving, boxing out anybody and anything to prevent his opponent the ball, whilst helping his teammate get it. Rick was the ultimate team player, just for his team that is.
Rick riled so many people up that this Canadian should have played Ice-Hockey. Rick had the right mindset though. He belonged in the company of 80's greats that played hard and sent everyone on their way home. Greats that displayed a toughness that is seldom seen today. Greats like his former Celtics or the Bad Boy Pistons. It wasn't until Motown had a renaissance that Fox and the Lakers met their match. Before that no one was close, as Fox got up, close and personnel with his man, wearing them down, on them like they where wearing Rick as a jacket. Taking another teams forward or off guard, off ball, off possession, off game and off the reservation.
He may 'Dance With The Stars' nowadays but a decade back he duelled with them. Shaq may have joked that Rick spent too long staring in the mirror but on reflection Rick was so dedicated to preening his game in a way that made the guy he was marking look bad. With his hairstyles and different looks, he may have appeared like the odd one out and his play may have been a little rough around the edges, but this Small forward was silky smooth like the Zohan. You didn't want to mess with him either. Fox left opponents and opposing crowds in fits with his triple threats like Jamie Foxx. From 2000 to 2003 he ensured the Lakers where winners. You want to attribute their success to someone other then the usual? Then blame it on Rick.
Fox hunting is illegal, but back in his day Rick stalked his prey and laid down the law (and not just in detective movie 'Resurrection'). He kept guard, stealing and reducing opponents numbers like their name was ENRON, reducing teams stock like it was Wall Street, all whilst remaining slick like Gordon Gekko and his Brylcreem hair. Fox made everything gel together perfectly, a true Small Forward. Along with Shaq and Kobe's dominance and Horry and Fisher's clutch, Rick tied everything together like a Lebowski rug. He ensured that his opponents aggression would not stand next to his true grit defence and he had a few bullets in his gun to boot as well. Just ask the Spurs, Indiana or anyone who was victim of his silent but violently deadly clutch threes.
This Hollywood, Staples icon had a calm but clinically measured demeanour like actor Terrence Howard and his hard-work and hustle helped the Lakers flow to the championships. Rick was kind of like L.A's Ron Artest now (without the NBA stardom, but a more successful second career), acting up and stealing the ball and the show in all the Hollywood drama of the NBA playoffs. Fox was sly and cunning, sending opponents barking mad. He was more of a hound, cutting and drying the grey areas to make victory for the purple and gold black and white. Sure Fox's sneaker deal wasn't like say a LeBron's, but Rick's jersey was soaked in a type of champagne some never got to taste. Sure when Rick catches a game at STAPLES when he looks up he may not see his name in the rafters, but he still saw ticker tape and balloons fall down in a celebration he earned back in his day. Sure Kobe will always come before Fox, but true warriors are more then just the guy leading the charge, their the ones behind their leader 100%. That's what Rick Fox was going to battle in some of the NBA's greatest victories. This Canadian earned his stars and stripes, and the Lakers patriot's purple heart earned him championship gold. When the Lakers dynasty was written, Rick stuck to the script, his own one.