De’Aaron Fox diary: Kings take trip to India
Sacramento’s third-year star shares his experiences during preseason visit
De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings made basketball history this week by playing in the first NBA games in India. The young Kings flew on rapper Drake’s plane (where they endured no Wi-Fi), viewed the Taj Mahal and sported custom Indian clothing in what was a memorable trip.
Spearheaded by Kings owner and Indian native Vivek Ranadive, the Kings played the Indiana Pacers in two preseason games on Friday and Saturday in Mumbai.
Third-year star Fox, the lightning-quick point guard who is one of the best young players in the NBA, helped put on a show for basketball fans in India. He shared his experiences here, as told to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.
saturday, Oct. 5: ‘Mvp’ chants in india
The Kings and Pacers played their second preseason game on Saturday at the National Sports Club of India. The Pacers won 130-106. Fox finished with 10 points in 26 minutes. The Kings travel back to Sacramento, California, on Sunday.
Mumbai, India | 9:48 p.m. India Standard Time: No matter where I go I always want to go home, but I’ve enjoyed the last few days. It was definitely great coming over here for the first time, being able to learn a little bit about the culture and how different it is from the States.
My favorite part of the trip was definitely the Taj Majal, because I was able to learn a bit more about it than I knew already. Probably a close second is Vivek’s Bollywood party. I was able to wear my suit, so that was cool. I had fun.
For us as a team, we’re learning each other and learning how we need to be able to step on another team’s neck. And then today … we gave up way too many uncontested layups, way too many uncontested 3s, so that’s what we pulled away from these first two games.
But I heard the fans chanting, ‘MVP, MVP,’ when I was shooting free throws. I appreciate the chants, but I got a lot of work to do to get there. It is funny that I heard MVP chants for the first time in India.
To the fans, thank you. We hope we put on a performance. It’s literally the highest level of basketball in the world, so I just hope that they enjoyed this and we left them with a great first impression. And for those that probably never touched a basketball before, especially the kids, I hope we were able to make it fun enough so that they’d want to play it themselves.
Friday, Oct. 4: Making basketball history
The Kings and Pacers played their first preseason game, the first NBA game in India, on Friday at the National Sports Club of India. The Pacers won in overtime, 132-131. Myles Turner blocked Fox’s potential game-winning layup in regulation.
Mumbai, India | 10:17 p.m. India Standard Time: The atmosphere was great. Obviously no one’s the home team here, so the kids cheered for everybody. I think we put on a pretty good show for them, and I hope they enjoyed their first NBA game. I didn’t even see Myles, but he made a heck of a play. I was just trying to get to the rim, get up the last shot, and he made a hell of a block.
I think both teams had a hell of a performance. Obviously neither team is where they want to be at, both scoring 130s, but obviously we came over here to continue to get better, continue to grow.
I had a good first half, a not-so-great second half. Kinda like the story of last year. We got up 20 and lost again, and so that’s something we’re working on as a team and know that it has to get solved.
But I think people here in India will definitely look back and remember the first NBA game that was played here. I think if you enjoy something the first time, then you will probably continue watching, maybe even try to play. So we’re just hoping that basketball just really is experienced in this country.
(After the game, Fox and his teammates were headed to a “Bollywood Party” hosted by Vivek Ranadive on the 37th floor of the team hotel overlooking Mumbai. The Pacers, as well as Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, Mark Tatum, Kiki VanDeWeghe, Detlef Schrempf, Ahmad Rashad and local celebrities, were also invited.)
I don’t know much, what we’re supposed to be doing, but I know it’s the Bollywood night. I just know we’re in our suits, so I’m excited to wear it.
The pants fit crazy good, so I might buy more of them. I think Buddy [Hield] already bought some more. When they came to Sac and did the fitting, they were like, ‘Buddy took our card and he’s already bought like five different colors.’ I might be doing the same thing. They’re super comfortable, and then they don’t look like suit pants, so you can get like a black pair and they just look like jeans, but up top the waist is like sweatpants, it’s cool.
I actually missed the NBA Welcome Party last night. I slept through it. I woke up at like 8:20, and thought, man, it’s already too late. I didn’t see nobody, nobody called me, nobody texted me, so I didn’t say nothing. It was sleep time in my mind, but I can’t miss the thing tonight, because I wanna wear the suit.
Thursday, Oct. 3: Hoops and hospitality
Mumbai, India | 2:27 p.m. India Standard Time: You know how we talk about Southern hospitality? It’s different over here. The hospitality that they show is simply amazing, and people from the streets to the hotel — I mean everybody — everybody’s going to say hello. You know how you walk in the street, you see the person and they kinda give you a head nod? Everybody here, they’re going to greet you regardless if they know you or not. And, I mean, obviously they can tell that you’re American, but they show a lot of hospitality here. Whether giving you a drink, grabbing your bag, opening the door, just the little things.
But after we flew into Mumbai, I was asleep on the bus, walked into the hotel, then we ate, and I never stepped foot outside again. I tried to stay up last night until, like, midnight to try to make myself sleepy before I go to sleep. That didn’t help. I woke up at, like, 4 a.m., kinda stayed up, and I haven’t been asleep since. I don’t want to switch over [to this time zone] ’cause we’re only here for two more days. I don’t want to switch over too much, because then you’d have to try to get your sleeping schedule back on again, so I’m fighting through this. We went to the Taj Mahal, that was probably the most important thing I thought we wanted to see on the trip, so I don’t know, I don’t think I’m getting out too much tonight as of right now. I’m tryin’ to rest a little bit.
You know, it’s still a preseason game. Obviously we’re all the way in India, but, you know, at the end of the day, we still came over here for basketball purposes, and what we did off the court was fun and very knowledgeable and we can learn about the culture, but once we step on the court, it’s still basketball.
Luke [Walton] has put a little more on me than in my first two years, but if I want to be that point guard — you know, one of the best guards in the league — then I have to take that role, take that responsibility. And really just helping make his job easier, help put guys in the right positions and try to give my team the best opportunity to win.
One thing we know we have to work on is executing on the defensive end, ’cause that’s the part we know that we have to work on the most to get to that next step. Luke is a defensive-minded coach, and we’ve put the foundation of our defense in already and we need to build on that. Offense will come and go, and you know you can’t make every shot, but you can buckle down and get stops.
It’s preseason. We’re trying to get reps in and continue to grow as a team. I’m interested to see what we look like against another team rather than playing ourselves.
Wednesday Oct. 2: FLYING DRAKE
Agra, India | 10:38 a.m. India Standard Time: Flying on Drake’s plane, man, it was dope. It was 20 hours — it felt like 20 hours — but it didn’t feel like a normal plane, you know, your ears start poppin’, none of that stuff happened. We played FIFA, Madden, 2K, started playing Assassins Creed a little bit, it was cool. It’s like being in your living room, but you on a flight, that’s how accommodating it was. We played music and stuff, but you can’t play music for 20 straight hours.
Even when we were staying up I didn’t feel like I was tired or like struggling to stay up because it felt like you was sitting in your living room.
I slept for probably eight to nine hours. I think it was like six bedrooms, like actual bedrooms, so people slept in them. I didn’t sleep in the bedrooms, I just walked by and messed with people.
Driving through the streets of India, it’s extremely different, I’ll tell you that. You kinda see animals on the street. I mean, you see stray dogs before, but I’ve never seen a stray cow.
It’s hot as hell, I’ma tell you that. But the last 24 hours, man, it’s been fun. You kinda get closer to people when you’re stuck in a room for 20 hours with them. I think this is an experience that you know all of us can take a lot away from, and I think Harrison’s [Barnes] probably the only one that’s been here because he came during the summer, but, I mean, this has definitely been a great trip so far.
I thought the Taj Mahal would be bigger, but we didn’t see most of it. But, man, it’s crazy, the detail, making us put these little footies on. Yeah, you know this building’s special. I mean, like we’ve all seen pictures. Even if you didn’t know what it was, you’ve seen a picture of it. And I think being here in person, it’s simply amazing.
I know it means the world to Vivek [Ranadive]. He probably comes back a lot for himself and his family, but for him to bring his organization here, I know he’s definitely having a blast.
Monday, Sept. 30: ‘through a long trip like this, it can only help us grow’
Sacramento, Calif. | 4:39 p.m. PST: I am excited to see a different culture. I have never been to India before. It will be a great experience getting out there. Playing the game will be fun. But sometimes it is really the off-the-court stuff that you’re most excited for. Internationally, I have only been to China. I have been there twice. I am not going to count the Bahamas. It’s too close.
I thought it was cool that we were getting Drake’s plane. [Kings general manager] Vlade Divac initially was going to get us the plane USA Basketball used [for the 2019 World Cup in China]. When he said he was looking for another plane, he didn’t say anything about the Drake plane until he found out it was Drake’s plane. I texted Drake and said, ‘Damn brah, we are taking your plane.’ He said, ‘Yeah we just sent it to Sacramento.’ That’s a different level. He sent the plane. That’s crazy.
I saw that it has beds and TVs. I’m just mad it doesn’t have Wi-Fi. I cannot tell you how we are going to get through it for 20 hours. People say, ‘Millennials can’t live without Wi-Fi.’ Well, I am totally fine with that. I am going to have PS4, movies and TV shows downloaded to my computer. I am going to try to make it and sleep. Twenty hours? It’s ridiculously long.
We’re going to get to see some things like the Taj Mahal. I don’t know too much about the Taj Mahal, but I have seen some pictures. I learned about it in high school [in Houston]. But I couldn’t remember none of it.
(The Kings got all of their players a custom-made Indian outfit to wear at a party on Thursday night. The players were measured in Sacramento.)
I got it fitted just like you would a normal suit. They had a couple different designs. I picked a bright blue. They said I was the only one that picked a brighter color. So mine is going to look cool. I actually gained weight from the last time we did the measurements. My suit had to be taken out a little bit.
I hope everyone can just enjoy being around each other on this trip. Learn new things together. Obviously, we’re going out there to play basketball games and discover who we are as a team. But through a long trip like this, it can only help us grow chemistry and grow closer together.