The Strange Journey Of NBA Champ Rick Fox

It seems like Rick Fox has been around forever. Today, and for a number of years, the effortlessly cool and maddeningly good-looking celebrity always seem to show up on whatever sitcom or game show you come across. Beyond that, he's been front-page tabloid fodder for his many high-profile romances with other celebrities, particularly his five-year marriage to the also famous and likable singer/actress Vanessa Williams.

Of course, before all the supermarket checkout magazine appearances, and before the appearances on Ugly Betty and The Big Bang Theory and in movies like Holes, Rick Fox was an NBA star, part of the Y2K-era Los Angeles Lakers, where, alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, he won three straight NBA titles.

So forget second acts — Fox is already onto his third and fourth. Let's take a look at where Rick Fox started, where he is now, and how he got there. The answers may just surprise you.

He was always a citizen of the world

Rick Fox lived in a few different places as a child and teenager, and both nature and nurture helped nudge him into becoming a world-class athlete. He was born in Toronto to a Canadian mother, Dianne Gerace, a track and field athlete who competed in the high jump event at the 1964 Summer Olympics. While Rick was still a baby, his father moved the family to his hometown of Nassau, in the Bahamas, and started a company supplying ice to hotels and restaurants.

But Fox didn't want to go into the family business — he was obsessed with basketball from a young age, and he begged his parents to send him to the U.S. where he could play high school ball. And so, in 1984, he moved to Indiana and was a standout at Warsaw High School from 1984 to 1986. Fox readied for his senior year, only for the Indiana High School Athletic Associated to rule him ineligible to play. Between his time in the Bahamas and Indiana, he'd completed eight semesters of high school play already.

He had a ball in college

Rick Fox played college hoops at the University of North Carolina under the tutelage of legendary coach Dean Smith, who at one point was the winningest coach in men's college basketball history. Fox joined the ranks of all-time Tar Heel greats like Vince Carter, James Worthy, and Space Jam star Michael Jordan. Fox wound up in the storied program as the result of a happy accident. Coach Smith attended an Indiana basketball camp in 1986 to scout another highly recruited player and also noticed Fox, a 6'7" player who had just finished his junior year of high school.

The relatively obscure Fox was a good "get." He played at UNC from 1987 to 1991. A dutiful benchwarmer in his first two years, he amassed 4.0 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. By his junior year, Fox was a regular starter, scoring 16.2 PPG as a junior and 16.9 PPG as a senior, leading the squad each year. In Fox's college career, his team never finished lower than third place in the conference. In the absolutely stacked 1991 NBA Draft (Larry Johnson was selected first, and Dikembe Mutombo was taken fourth), the Boston Celtics used the #24 pick to snag Fox.

He put a ring on it (three times)

Rick Fox played in the NBA for a stout 13 seasons, and for only two teams, but the two most historic teams in the league: the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.

His best years for the green-and-whites came from 1995 to 1997, where he scored 14.0 and 15.5 points per game on average in successive seasons. Despite being one of Boston's best players, the Celtics released Fox, and the Lakers signed him for the 1997-'98 season. While never an all-star or a superstar with the Lakers (he topped out with a 12 points per game average), Fox was a high-profile member of the high-profile squad, helping the team win three straight NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

Hampered by foot and thumb injuries in the 2003-'04 campaign, Fox played only 38 regular season games and averaged a mere 4.8 points per game. In 2004, he had a chance to finish out his career where he started it, when the Lakers traded him back to Boston, but the writing was on the wall — Fox decided to retire.

Acting like he wants to do something else

America's most cherished products are our athletes and our actors, and sometimes those two groups meet, giving us the rare jock-turned-movie star. Rick Fox took that path, the one forged by Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, and O.J. Simpson ... but he didn't wait until he retired.

While he was still hitting the boards in the NBA, Fox began a second career moonlighting as an actor, fulfilling an ambition he had nurtured while pursuing his degree in radio, television, and motion pictures at UNC. He started off like most athletes who venture into show biz, by playing an athlete on the screen, appearing as a basketball player in films like Blue Chips, Eddie, and He Got Game. He hit a turning point when he landed a recurring role on the acclaimed HBO series Oz; he did play a basketball player, sure, but a basketball player imprisoned on a charge of sexual assault who later becomes a drug addict. Fox appeared on 11 episodes of Oz between 1997 and 2003, which coincided with his championship run on the Lakers. Nice work if you can get it, huh?

Watch what he can do

After leaving basketball, Fox was able to devote his full attention to acting. While he continued to appear in the occasional film (Mini's First Time, Meet the Browns, Dope) he found his niche in television, more often than not on non-Big 4 scripted shows.

In addition to long stints on the OWN soap opera Greenleaf and the syndicated sitcom Mr. Box Office, Fox has enjoyed recurring character gigs on FX's Dirt, TBS's House of Payne, VH1's Single Ladies, and UPN's Love, Inc. When Fox does get a chance to show off his chops in a big primetime show, he makes it count — he guest-starred on two-episodes of ABC's Emmy-winning Ugly Betty (opposite his former wife, Vanessa Williams), and on one episode of the insanely popular The Big Bang Theory. Fox portrayed an ex-boyfriend of Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), who is so tall and good-looking that her husband, Howard (Simon Helberg) becomes filled with sad jealousy. Additionally, Fox has popped up on The Glades, K.C. Undercover, Franklin & Bash, Criminal Minds, Body of Proof, Major Crimes, that Melrose Place remake, Party Down, Black-ish, Shameless, Mom ... it's almost easier to list the shows he hasn't appeared on.

The reality of the situation

Given how busy he is acting, you wouldn't think Fox would have time for much else, but the guy is a near-constant presence in the world of reality television. And Fox doesn't even stick to one type of reality show — he represents in all four main quadrants of the genre: reality competitions, game shows, talk shows, and prank shows.

In 2010, he challenged himself with a run on Dancing with the Stars. Though professional athletes have a long history of winning the televised dance-off, Fox and his partner Cheryl Burke bowed out in sixth place. Still, the series showed that Fox isn't afraid to take some risks. He's competed on a celebrity edition of Chopped (he lost to Nash Bridges actress Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) and served as a guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race.

As far as game shows go, Fox appeared as a panelist on ABC's revival of Match Game, a player on Celebrity Name Game, a contestant on a stars-only episode of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, and he led his family against Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Tyson's family on Family Feud.

Fox can also host stuff (he's been a substitute on The View and Larry King Now) and execute pranks, like pulling a fast one on a pizza delivery guy on an episode of Chris Webber's Full Court Pranks.

There she is, Miss America and Mr. Fox

As a member of the prominent and dominant Los Angeles Lakers, Rick Fox was a known entity to sports fans, but his marriage to popular actress and singer Vanessa Williams clued in millions more to his existence. The basketball star met the Eraser star/"Save the Best for Last" singer/former Miss America in 1998. She's about six years older than Fox, but age, as they say, ain't nothing but a number. Williams told the New York Times she liked Fox because "he was mature for his age, and he wanted me from the beginning."

They married in a small and intimate ceremony in the Caribbean in the summer of 1999, and followed it up with a big church wedding in New York City a few weeks later. Fox and Williams blended their families — he has a son from a previous relationship, she has three from another marriage — and soon added a daughter named Sasha to the mix. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. In August 2004, Fox filed for divorce, having apparently lived apart from Williams for more than a year.

Famous women seem to like the guy

After the end of his long and child-generating marriage to the lovely and amazing Vanessa Williams, Rick Fox didn't waste any time getting back out there. There are a lot of fish in the sea, particularly for a guy who's both a handsome actor and a popular ex-athlete.

In 2007, Fox was spotted around Los Angeles with Mariah Carey, although reps for both the ex-athlete and the pop diva denied the two were officially an item. Fox's longest-lasting non-marriage went a good five years — that's how long he was with Eliza Dushku, star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and various other Joss Whedon properties. They broke up in 2014 because they wanted to live in different places. "Rick's an L.A. guy, and I'm a Boston girl," Dushku told the Boston Globe (even though L.A. is probably where a TV actress needs to live, and even though Fox spent a lot of time in Boston as a member of the Celtics in the '90s). Shortly thereafter, Rick Fox became another of several basketball players to win a date with Khloe Kardashian.

Rick Fox, e-sports prophet

Recently Fox's career path took a surprise turn, as he is devoting his energy and passion to ... e-sports.

E-sports is basically professional, competitive video gaming. Teams of gamers face off in big tournaments streamed live online — and sometimes on television — with all the trappings of physical sports, including rabid fan bases and play-by-play commentary. It sounds niche, but it's actually big business, with hundreds of millions of dollars invested and tens of millions of viewers around the world. Leading the charge is Rick Fox, who in 2015 bought and began sponsoring Echo Fox, a professional League of Legends team.

So why and how did Rick Fox of all people become one of the leading (and probably most handsome) faces of professional video gaming in America? Dad stuff. After Fox moved to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers, he wasn't spending much quality time with his son, Kyle — until they discovered World of Warcraft. Playing together and bonding over the game eventually led to League of Legends. Fox eventually got interested in the business side of e-sports and decided to run his own team. Thus, Echo Fox was born.

And Fox believes this is just the start of a burgeoning synergy between traditional sports and professional video gaming. And he believes the best is yet to come, telling TMZ that e-sports will "be on par with the NHL" before long.