Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox wants to bring the city a championship ring — Andscape
Sacramento Kings star De’Aaron Fox’s biggest nemesis in his NBA career has been his storied Northern California neighbor: The Golden State Warriors.
Fox has a 6-11 regular-season record against the Warriors since beginning his career in Sacramento in 2017. When the 2023 NBA All-Star made his first NBA playoff appearance last season, it was the lower-seeded Warriors who eliminated his Kings in Sacramento in a deciding seventh game after guard Stephen Curry scored 50 points. Two of the Kings’ six losses this season have come from the Warriors.
On Tuesday night, there is an opportunity for Fox to get revenge on the Warriors or be foiled once again. Sacramento can improve to a 4-0 record and secure West Group C in the inaugural in-season tournament with a victory over Golden State. Another stinging Warriors loss and the Kings’ NBA Cup hopes could come down to a point differential tiebreaker with three other teams.
“We play them so much,” Fox told Andscape last week. “We played them in the playoffs. It’s always a challenge. Obviously, Steph is Steph. They’ve had our number for a while. If we were to see them in the playoffs again, that’s a hump we have to get over.”
While Curry is the brightest sports star in Northern California, Fox has become a king in his own right in the state’s capital.
Fox solidified himself as one of the NBA’s premier players by becoming a first-time All-Star last season. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder averaged a career-high 25 points last season and led Sacramento to its first playoff appearance in 17 seasons. The 2023 All-NBA third-team selection is averaging 29.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds this season for Sacramento despite missing two weeks with an ankle injury. Under Armour’s Curry brand also announced on Oct. 26 that Fox was signed as its first signature athlete.
The following is a Q&A with Fox with Andscape in which he talks about his rising NBA stardom, getting the playoff monkey off his back, the pain of losing in the playoffs, why he believes the Kings can win an NBA title, marriage and fatherhood, Sacramento pride, championship aspirations, humility versus celebrity status and much more.
How has the world changed around you since becoming an NBA All-Star?
It’s been a lot better, lot smoother, a lot more fun. It’s been cool. This last year and a half has been good for me in honestly everything. Basketball, life, obviously having the baby, being married for over a year now. It’s everything, really.
You’ve long had confidence that you were one of the NBA’s best players, but what validation did you get from being an All-Star?
There are some people who have felt [I was a star] way since I’ve been in high school, been in college and first coming to league. But now I was able to be on that [All-Star] stage and people who haven’t heard my name and or heard it over six years from [my University of Kentucky days] finally get to be reminded. And some people who have never honestly watched the Kings play before, it’s nice that we get to be in the front and in that spotlight.
I definitely feel like [the recognition] has gone up a lot. Does it change me? No. But you definitely feel it, for sure. Nothing much has really changed for me besides I would say getting more fans and being posted on the NBA [websites] more. But nothing else really changed.
When the Kings made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and first time in your career, what did that truly mean to you? Did you have a moment where you reflected before Game 1 in Sacramento?
Walking out for the first [playoff] game for me was a big, big moment. [Nationally televised] games get pushed back because whatever’s going on for the game in front of it. Ours got pushed back like 10 or 15 minutes. So, we go out and everybody’s already in their seats. You just go out, see all white because those were the shirts that they had on everybody’s seat. Just how loud it was because it was the first playoff game in  years, that was a surreal moment.
Just coming out of the tunnel for Game 1, I got a little emotional coming out. That was the only time I really got emotional. After that I was locked-in, but that moment was definitely special to me.
Steph scored 50 points in Game 7 to eliminate the Kings from the playoffs. Does the end of the playoffs still bother you? Did it take you a while to get over that?
Yeah, it took me a while. I didn’t watch most of the playoffs. I watched a few games of the [NBA] Finals. But no, I didn’t want to see more basketball after we lost just knowing that we could have been better in Game 7. We had other games that we probably could have won and been better at. But I actually did the same thing in college [at Kentucky] after we lost. I didn’t watch the Final Four or the championship. That’s just how I am.
The Kings have not won an NBA championship or played in the Finals since moving to Sacramento in 1985. Why do you believe your Kings have a chance to change history?
We can shoot the ball. We have guys that can [score in] the paint. We can create offense out of nothing. We are up there in the league for assists as a team and then we have guys who if they have to go into isolation, can get a bucket. And whenever you need a bucket, you need guys like that. Obviously, you don’t want to play that way all the time. But when it comes down to it, you have to have guys that can go get one. We have that. And throughout the course of the game when the ball’s moving and guys are making shots, we’re hard to stop.
Is the NBA Most Valuable Player award a goal for you?
I want to continue to play at a high level. If I win it, cool. If I don’t, I mean, that’s fine. I’ve never just sat here and said, ‘I want to win MVP.’ But I feel like it’s a real possibility. But I have to be at a high level more often than at a good level. I want to be great this league.
Do you feel more or less pressure now than before? You got in the playoffs, you’ve been an All-Star. You checked these boxes. But I also feel the Kings expectations are higher now. Head coach Mike Brown is talking championship with the team.
I would say a little less pressure because of that [playoff] elephant being in the room. But now after being an All-Star, All-NBA, there’s an expectation that I should be playing at a certain level. I wouldn’t say it’s added pressure. I love going out there. I love playing. I love having the best defender have to guard me. I want to be the best player on the floor every night.
But ultimately right now for us is we want to win championships. I can’t play basketball for forever and I want to be able to bring the city a ring.
Did you have championship aspirations a year ago?
I’ve always wanted to win a championship. Would it have been realistic at the time? No, it wouldn’t have. But I think whenever we’re playing at our best both offensively and defensive, I feel like we can compete with anybody.
In August of 2022, you married your longtime girlfriend, Recee Caldwell. Now, it’s commonplace to see Recee and your infant son, Reign, sitting courtside at Kings games. What did the marriage do for you?
We lived together for few years before we actually got married. But marriage, in itself just solidified that union. But since we’ve been together, I’ve been able to have a stable and a steady life. There’s not many surprises that are going on. Just having that type of stability at home helped me in more ways than one.
What is it like when you see your wife and your son sitting courtside?
It’s dope. They go to most games. So, it’s always cool being able for us and for me to really just be able to look across the court and see them courtside at home at every game. And obviously, he doesn’t know what’s going on. He just wants his dad. So, it’s definitely cool being able to do your job while also being able to see your family.
Do you sense a different pride in Sacramento after finally making the playoffs?
Definitely. The chests are definitely pumped out a little bit more. You could drive just about anywhere in the city, if you’re downtown, you’re all the way in Folsom or Roseville, you’re going to see something with the Kings. You’re going to see ‘Light the Beam’ on a building somewhere. So, it’s definitely dope that the city has that much pride in the basketball team. And even when we were losing, they’re still coming to game. They’re still cheering you on. But whenever you actually give them something to cheer for, [the pride] is everywhere.”
The Kings have 22 nationally televised games this season as opposed to two last season. How much pride do you take in that?
The biggest part for us is getting more exposure. And I love that, especially whenever we have it for home games, because people get to see the crowd and how engaged they are every second of the game, no matter who we’re playing against. So, that is what I take more pride in than anything else is everybody get to see how good a basketball city Sacramento is.
What did it mean to become Curry Brand’s first signature show ambassador?
It was cool. Last year I started wearing them, and at the time I wasn’t really thinking anything of it. And then Under Armour started getting in touch with Miguel [Lopez], our equipment manager, and asked him what type of shoes I wanted. The relationship built from there. And then [my agent] Rich [Paul] started getting in contact and Steph started getting in contact. So, it kind of came directly from [Curry]. So that was cool.”
What was Stephen Curry’s Under Armour sales pitch?
He was just talking about how much Under Armour takes care of you. Obviously, they don’t have a big roster. They would rather quality over quantity. So, you’re starting with two All-Stars, All-NBA guys. Start from there and then build up from there. So, I’m glad to be able to be that first player, be a part of his brand and continue to help build my brand as well.
Is there anything that you would like to do in the Sacramento community?
We actually have a pop-up shop where we’re doing stuff for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, we just did one for Thanksgiving being able to feed orphans. [We] Had a Thanksgiving meal with families. We just do a lot of little things around the community. And then for Christmas, we do a Christmas giveaway as well. [I] Love the holidays. Just love being able to be in touch with the community that cheers you.
Word was that you were doing some next-level stuff this past offseason. What were you doing differently?
A lot of the stuff we were doing this summer was a lot of game-implemented stuff with what we run [offensively] and where our shots come from. So, every shot that we took this summer was a shot that I’ve been taking in the games. So, it’s made the game a little bit easier. And then being able to work out with guys like Keegan [Murray], Kessler [Edwards] all summer. So, I feel like that’s made the games a bit easier as well.
Is it healthy for you to average over 30 points per game?
I don’t know. It is definitely hard. It’s possible … Those things happen. But like I said, I need to be able to play at a high level more often than I play at a good level.
Even with all your accolades of late, you seem to be the same person you were when you arrived to Sacramento. What is the key to you staying humble?
It’s funny, we were playing Call of Duty. My friends are like, ‘The NBA is his side job.’ After a game or if we have an off day and we’re playing, I’m just De’Aaron to my friends. So, it’s very normal. I had 40 [one game] and I get on the game a little bit, and you wouldn’t even know that I had 40. And that’s how I like to keep life. I like to separate basketball from the rest of my life.
Are you uncomfortable with celebrity?
I wouldn’t say I’m uncomfortable. I like being able to go to dinner and not have to obviously say hi to everybody. But it comes with the territory and I try to be nice and try to be kind to everybody that I come across. But there are days where you just don’t want to see anybody. You want to be with your family, but it is what it is. I knew what I signed up for.
Sometimes when people meet me, they are shaking a little bit. I feel like that’s kind of happened a little bit over years. Other than that, I wouldn’t say anything else has really changed.