Exploring De’Aaron Fox’s Clutch Gene
Being clutch is often an aspiration, but few ever master the moment. Seasoned vets, All-Star’s and superstars are shredded nightly for what they do or don’t do in these crucial late-game situations. It’s an ongoing process in the new digital age of sports analysis.
“He’s the GOAT.”
“They’re mentally weak.”
If NBA elders are subject to this, it’s especially impressive when a young player can thrive in a high-pressured situation. The Sacramento Kings seemed attracted to these situations last season, and for rookie De’Aaron Fox, the transformation from college star to professional clutch shotmaker was seamless.
Let’s relive these moments and hone in our own reality: Fox shined brightest lights, biggest moments and most importantly, is a prominent member of a great rookie class.
11/9 | 76ers | 109-108
Just 10 games into his professional career, Fox got his shot against one of the most promising teams in the league. Riddled with talent up and down its roster, the 76ers are coming on as a perennial NBA contender. But on that night, Fox catches the inbounds pass at the top of the key, finds his spot on the elbow and pulls up with relative ease over Robert Covington.
Even the most casual NBA fans could see Fox’s potential as an NBA point guard, but it takes more than one midrange jumper to prove your worth. Lo and behold, Fox would provide Kings fans with plenty more of these moments as the season progressed. In other words, the fun had only just begun.
1/25 | Heat | 89-88
What was more impressive: the dunk or Grant Napear’s call? We’re joking, but this was the moment Fox went mainstream. Of course, going to Kentucky and being the No. 5 overall selection was mainstream, but we’re saying NBA talking heads mainstream. The type of play that catapults you into an NBA star, not just a college star.
After a missed off-balance jumper from Bogdan Bogdanovic, Fox flies in behind multiple Heat defenders before throwing down the putback slam to give the Kings the 89-88 lead. It was the perfect combination of instincts, intuition and outcome as Fox perfectly timed it. Emotions running high, this is in contention for Kings’ highlight of the season.
3/1 | Nets | 116-111
*clutch rating increases*
sends it to OT! pic.twitter.com/R1INGnbDTd
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 2, 2018
Once again, Fox uses his quickness to his advantage. Catching it beyond the 3-point stripe, Fox skirts around Spencer Dinwiddie before driving baseline for the floater. With 6.1 seconds left, you could hear the crowd buzzing, and especially so after Fox caught the pass. It’s like they knew what would happen next. Can you blame them?
3/14 | Heat | 123-119
The Heat have to be sick of Fox now. This might not be as emphatic as his putback dunk in the 305, but it’s just as meaningful. Fox, catching it at the top of the key after getting the screen, knows what to do: drive to his left, make sure to get the shot off in time and use his instincts to orchestrate the shot. The shot went in after driving through multiple Heat defenders. Where have we heard that before?
De’Aaron Fox is now 5/6 (!) in the last 30 seconds of games decided by 2 points or less. Only Damian Lillard has made more shots in those situations, on 6 more attempts. pic.twitter.com/1vCmyDqBx1
— Alex Kramers (@alexkramers) March 15, 2018
3/16 | Warriors | 98-93
Fox being clutch…again pic.twitter.com/eDUVKWiRO3
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 17, 2018
Against their Northern California rivals, Fox molded himself seamlessly into the rivalry with another nifty finishing move. Stringing the ball around like a yo-yo, Fox gets his defender in the air with a smooth up-and-under move before netting the floater with less than a minute against the defending champion Warriors. Another special moment for the rook.
4/1 | Lakers | 84-83
In a season full of spectacular finishes, Fox’s finish against the Lakers at Staples Center may have been the most gratifying. Anything against the Lakers gets more love, but especially when it puts the game out of reach as seconds wind down. Going left, Fox drives, floats and gets a little love from the rim on his way towards another clutch shot. Different day, same result. What a way to leave Staples.
To watch the entire collection of clutch moments from the Kings this season, watch below.