I grew up in New Jersey and spent a solid near-decade living (and playing in Aa) in Brooklyn, so my basketball loyalties will always ultimately lie with the Nets. But after moving to Los Angeles in 2011, I've (seemingly perversely but for a handful of quasi non-perverse reasons, I swear) adopted the Sacramento Kings as my West Coast 'home' team and—thanks in part to my drafting of their star center DeMarcus Cousins on all three of my fantasy teams over the past two years—the man they call Boogie has become my favorite player, pretty much anywhere, ever.
Boogie is “a load,” as they say, a 6'11″, 270 lb bear of a man who combines scary amounts of ill-willed aggression with a soft shooting touch, a point guard's passing skills, and improbably balletic footwork. Perhaps most notoriously, he also possesses (or is possessed by) the league's most volcanic temperament, with spectacular, irregular eruptions of emotion that have enabled him to lead the NBA in technical fouls in each of the past two seasons.
Boogie has maybe the 'worst' on-court body language of any player I've ever seen regardless of whether he's racking up fouls or double-doubles, he carries himself with a sense of perpetually near-boiling over aggrievement that some less forgiving commentators have lazily labeled “immaturity.” He is acutely aware of the persecution he faces for feeling too much. His Twitter bio is “motivated by the struggle and the hate,” his Instagram bio is “they hate you when u fake, but hate you more if u real.” Personally, I'm really into the passion as well as the frequent, unvarnished negativity. Boogie might be the realest dude in the league…
Sadly I'm also writing this after watching Cousins get his 16th technical foul of the season late in the 4th quarter of Sunday's close win vs. the Timberwolves, which means he's going to be suspended for the last game of the season. I'm pretty down about it, and I know Boogie is too, but let's take the opportunity to get a head start on celebrating some of the MOST BOOGIE MOMENTS of his tragically shortened 2013 – 2014 season.
After a hard-fought, one point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers which ended in a missed Boogie jumper, Chris Paul goes to shake the hand of the Kings' tiny dynamo Isaiah Thomas, in acknowledgement of the close game as well as a sign of respect for a young point guard that was just beginning to really break out in his star-making season. Boogie is not having any of that “good sportsmanship” fakery, momma-bearing his diminutive teammate away from CP3's outstretched hand not once, but twice, as if the Clippers All-Star was a child molester offering a handful of Skittles.
CP3 haughtily says in the postgame that Cousins “needs some guidance,” giving Boogie a layup of a perfect tweet a month later when Paul snippily instigated a bench-clearing brawl at the end of a close loss to Golden State:
Lol guidance huh?
— demarcus cousins (@boogiecousins) December 26, 2013
Hilariously, Boogie pulls a similar move in a game days later vs. the Clippers, rejecting an offered hand from JJ Reddick. Priceless JJ reaction shot with a guest cameo from then-King Marcus Thornton. NO HANDSHAKES! The whole episode was admittedly “classic” Cuz genuine and emotive in a way that gave easy ammunition to those inclined to throw around the “immature” tag.
BEAT THE HEAT
Days after Christmas, this was one of the best of Sacramento's 28 wins on the season a come from behind, overtime victory against the defending champs. Boogie not only had a monster game (27 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists) but showed incredible restraint despite repeated baiting from LeBron James and “Rio” Chalmers as pressure mounted in the fourth quarter. First, watch Cousins hustle away after getting body slammed by LeBron, lest he inadvertently enter Hulk mode on the reigning MVP.
…Followed by this cheapshot from Rio, resulting in a flagrant foul and causing Boogie to enter “no headband mode” a la LeBron's own terrifying Game 6 of last year's finals
…and then this clutch, extremely emotional charge on Michael Beasley to help seal the win in OT. A pic of Boogie's reaction following the charge call has been my avatar on Twitter as well as for one of my fantasy teams (“Forever Purple”) for the past four months. POWERFUL feelings.
Great stuff, and the exhibit of restraint by Cuz was a sign of the intermittent but real progress he would make on that front over the course of the season.
I was at this game, stopping in Sacramento en route back to Los Angeles after Aa's recent West Coast tour, but somehow missed this “classic Cousins” action. After a brutal first half of watching James Harden freely exert his will over the Kings from the three point line and the foul line (at one point in the second quarter the score was 50-19), I went to stretch my legs and get a beer at halftime. By the time I got back to my seat, barely a minute into the third quarter, Cousins was out of the game! What happened?
Boogie managed to rack up two technical fouls in rapid succession, with the first owing to his exasperation at a legit infuriating foul called by ref Courtney Kirkland on a missed Dwight Howard alley-oop and then-the-second tech from his subsequent, explosive reaction to the first. My favorite part of this clip (about 30 seconds in) is how Cousins was seated on the bench trying to cool down after the first T, thinks about it for a sec, then purposefully strides back into the fray to give Kirkland one last, extremely passionate piece of his mind. Have you ever deliberately chosen emotional catharsis over your own best interests? Boogie is your spirit animal.
Then, the next day came the news Boogie was being suspended by the league for a game, which really bummed me out because it meant he was gonna be missing the Kings game against the Lakers in Los Angeles, which I had already bought tickets for as a fantasy league outing (shout outs to the Jock Jams 420 league). However, this was not related to the Kirkland incident, but to Boogie's impressively subtle stomach punch of Houston's Patrick Beverley, just two minutes into the first quarter(!), which had gone undetected during the game.
Patrick Beverley is one of the league's most hated pests, a relentlessly physical guard defender that first gained infamy by knocking Russell Westbrook out of the playoffs last year and subsequently from this year's season-long impression of Tony Allen on bath salts. I'm not saying he “deserved” this in any immediate sense, but you can be sure Cuz isn't the first player to want to do this—he's just the first to have the guile to pull it off without getting caught (right away, anyway).
AGILITY, MOBILITY, AND HOSTILITY
In the classic formulation of Kings broadcaster “The Great” Jerry Reynolds , Big Cuz's combination of “agility, mobility, and hostility” is an awesome and terrifying sight to behold, kind of like watching a grizzly bear run 35 miles an hour en route to dismembering a baby deer. So, lest we allow this list to be dominated by drama, here's a sprinkling of clips of the man's on-court highlights (mostly geared towards recent games, admittedly doing this off the dome).
Cousins goes coast-to-coast, dribbling around pretty much every single Milwaukee Bucks defender en route to a heavy finish. Yes, it's the Bucks, but, as per Jerry, “Magic Cousins” is the only center in the league doing this kind of stuff on the regs.
A Mobile, Alabama native, Boogie put on a merciless show in New Orleans for a hometownish crowd in March, laying waste to the helplessly over-matched quartet of Greg Stiemsma, Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey, and, yes, Anthony Davis. Just utter carnage in the post, and note especially how he slips a shockingly deft up-and-under past the Brow at 3:15. Anthony Davis has become very good at playing basketball very quickly, but he is not close to being ready to handle Big Cuz.
Similar action versus the Dallas Mavericks, incredible footwork, brutally graceful finishes in traffic, Cousins is a bull in ballet shoes and Dallas' interior defense is a badly broken china shop.
I happened to be in Cap City for work on March 26 so naturally I went to see the Kings take on the Manhattan Knicks, and, like the Rockets game, it was… a pretty frustrating one for the home team, with the Knicks dominating from start to finish. This vicious block of JR Smith by Cousins was a rare moment of catharsis during the otherwise unsatisfying evening, and you can see every bit of desperate exhilaration in Boogie's priceless, wildeyed reaction.
On top of everything else, Boogie has phenomenal passing skills for a big man, and after Isaiah Thomas went down with a quad contusion in March, Boogie got more opportunities to showcase them. Check out this crazy no look pass to Derrick Thrilliams, in the midst of a first quarter vs. Dallas full of Boogie highlight reel passes that are inexplicably absent from the youtubes. Dude is basically a bigger Magic Johnson with a scowl.
Oh man, Boogie broke many hearts with this expert level April Fool's joke—which in typically ruthless, recklessly effective fashion—he launched on his unsuspecting fans March 31 with this Instagram:
Everything about this is so, so good, the baller-turnt-sanger alias Boogie Smooth, the pensive black & white cover photo, the album title Misunderstood, and the first single “Emotional” featuring Chance the Rapper (!!) b/w “Big Fellas” featuring Rick Ross (!!). It was so perfect that I literally thought I was dreaming at first, but also juuuust plausible enough to be believable —after all—he'd hardly be the first basketball player to put out an album, and wouldn't this be exactly the kind of album we'd hope for from the sensitive big man?
Hard to put into words how crushing and embarrassing it was to find out that this was a joke. I was literally tweeting about how this was the most life-affirming news I could imagine earlier that day. But, now that I'm (kind of) over it, I gotta admit that this was a good-ass joke, and Boogie basically 'won' an April Fool's holiday that I thought was beyond redemption. And isn't self-awareness the first step towards self-control?
This was the real crusher, the tragic ending of Boogie's season. After the two technical fouls at the Sacramento/Rockets game in February, Cousins was just one more tech away from his 16th on the season, which results in an automatic one-game suspension. He vowed to go the rest of the season without picking up another, and went on a relentless no-tech rampage that lasted until this past Sunday against the Timberwolves. This sad, sad foul came at the tail end of a close game that was one of Boogie's finest, most all-around dominant performances of the year with 35 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks. Cuz was doing it all, and doing it all the way through crunch time.
Then, after a foul called on teammate Travis Outlaw with less than 1:30 left, Cousins gets slightly caught up in the moment, with a “get out of here” wave directed at (pathetically thin-skinned) referee J.T. Orr, who takes umbrage and dishes out the fateful T. The prolonged, very visible anguish of Cousins here is just heartbreaking, and compared to “verbally abusing” Courtney Kirkland, this is an extremely mild infraction, making the tragedy all the more senseless.
…And yet, despite having just received a death sentence for his season, Boogie goes on to seal the game a minute later with a clutch crossover + blowby dunk on Gorgui Dieng, in one last, violent display of his newfound maturity:
A VERY BOOGIE FUTURE
Judging from Cousins' 16 technicals in 2013-2014 compared to 17 in 2012-2013, or the Kings' pretty shitty 28-54 record, identical to a year ago, a casual observer might be tempted to say that this was year of distressingly little forward motion for both player and team. But, having watched damned near every Kings game for the past two years, let me assure you this was not at all the case. By finally committing to Isaiah Thomas at the point, somehow turning Rudy Gay into an efficient all-around scorer, and enduring Ben McLemore's mid-season growing pains, the Kings have surrounded Big Cuz with a talented supporting cast. And Boogie's own “emotional” development, not to mention his growing, evermore polished-yet-brutal on-court arsenal, have him positioned to lead the team to a notably nonshitty 2014-2015 season. Here's hoping that 16th tech will help scare off the other GMs in my fantasy draft next year.
Aa's VoyAager is out now on Northern Spy.