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Men's Spring Fashion Issue

Down to Business

Laker Forward Rick Fox Has a New Look and a New Game Plan

April 07, 2002|HEATHER JOHN

Rick Fox is sitting in front of a mirror with his head covered in shaving cream and a disposable Bic razor in his hand. It's a Monday afternoon in a deserted furniture warehouse in Glendale, and halfway through a fashion photo shoot he's decided that his locks, which have taken a year and a half to grow, must come off.

His wife, actress and singer Vanessa Williams, collects the curls in a Ziploc bag while his 22-month old daughter, Sasha, lets out a wail. "It's kind of strange to see myself with no hair," he says with a laugh. "I don't look as friendly as I used to."

In the week that follows, the Lakers win three consecutive games, with Fox's hair (or lack thereof) receiving as much attention from the sports media as his scoring averages, which have almost doubled since the hair came off. "I don't think it's a coincidence. It's definitely a different mind-set for me--a down-to-business look," Fox says. "At times [the hair] was a distraction. All that's left to focus on is the game."

The 32-year-old starting forward for the Lakers had returned this season leaner, more muscular and more focused. "In the 2000 championship, my ego would not let me accept [my performance] as being the best I could bring to the table. So when Phil Jackson challenged me to take the summer to come back at a different weight, and to come back with a different mind-set, I really wanted to meet that challenge. Whatever goal he set for me, I set one higher," he says. "This year, more than ever, I've looked to be a facilitator, a creator of opportunities for my teammates. I've improved in a lot of areas this year, and I think I'll definitely continue to improve."

Which, for an NBA player (or any professional athlete) in his 30s, comes with a heightened level of challenge. After an 11-year career with the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers, and two NBA championships, others might have been content. But Fox has gotten a second wind. "I find myself doing three times the work I did when I was trying to get into this league. But that's the reality for any player in their 30s. I've made some life-altering decisions in the areas of exercise and diet that have rejuvenated my career," he says, adding that he's been following the Zone diet, and has increased his cardio workout and weightlifting program.

"I feel healthier and more athletic. I feel as young as I did in college and that's something I guess a lot of athletes don't have once they've hit 10 or 11 years in the league--they start to wind down. The older you get, the more professional you have to be--that is, taking care of your joints as well as your diet, your weight, your cardio. There are younger players out there who want my job; there are other teams that want our championship trophies, and there's an underlying sense of fear. But fear is a strong motivating factor in life."

For all of his intensity on the court, Fox's approach in his personal life is decidedly more relaxed. Having a daughter, he says, "I've definitely softened. She's been to every game. She's learned to chant 'defense' and she dances with the JumboTron. And she does her sprint after the game to give her daddy a hug, so that makes my life 10 times more enjoyable."

Though Fox and his wife juggle bicoastal careers (Williams will star in "Carmen Jones" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., next season), he tries to spend most of his downtime with his family, talking walks on the beach near their home in Marina del Rey, which reminds him of growing up in the Bahamas, or frequenting local spots such as Baja Cantina or Sushi Roku in Santa Monica. "I'm really a jeans and T-shirt guy," he says. "Kids jump on you, spill food on you. I like to be comfortable. I think anything too stiff makes me feel stiff. I like to blend in." And that can't be easy when you're 6-foot-7. "That's why I go with earth tones. I try to blend in with the earth . . . or the trees."

He attributes any fashion discoveries to his wife. "Vanessa has infused her style and taste into my life, not by accident, of course," he says with a laugh. "She says when we met, my clothes were too baggy. She's given me a greater outlook outside the world of sports, where if you don't know where to go, then you're only going to buy what you see other individuals wearing who are your size. But she's introduced me to designers like John Varvatos--I'm right at the top of the [size] scale, but I just fit in. It's nice to be able to put on a suit or sweater that I would have never expected my frame to fit." "That's another thing I like about L.A.," he adds. "Style is accepted across the board. There's not a mandated dress code. People are appreciated for their style and their personalities. You can go to a restaurant and be seated next to a stylish New York couple and two people could walk in right off the beach. That acceptance and flexibility is what my personality's all about."


Heather John is a senior Style editor at the magazine.


Styled by Deborah Waknin/Art Mix; stylist's assistant: Jennifer Raymond; grooming: Kate Best; location: Seeley's Furniture Store/Unreel Locations

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