Give Boogie a Chance

Nate Levinson, Sports Editor

For the first five years of his volatile career, DeMarcus Cousins’s tremendous talent has been wasted.

After falling all the way to the No. 5 pick in the 2010 draft due to concerns about his maturity, Boogie (as he’s affectionately known) has done nothing but dominate. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league, and at this point it’s fair to say he’s the best center in the NBA. He’s ninth in the league in player efficiency, sixth in points per game and third in rebounds per game, but there’s one key category in which he’s lacking: wins. The Kings sport the third-worst record in the Western Conference at 18–34 and, set to hire their third different coach of this season alone, have been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster in the 2014–15 season.

Cousins is a bully in the best sense of the word. There are few, if any, defenders in the entire NBA that can defend him for an entire game. His strength, power and improved jump shot make him almost impossible to match up with as long he’s motivated and consistently running the court.

Some might point to Cousins’s immaturity as the reason for his lack of success in the win column, but that’s hardly an excuse for such ineptitude. The Kings have failed to win more than 28 games in any of Cousins’s five seasons with the team — a pretty amazing feat considering their superstar building block. Sure, Cousins has some growing up to do, but that’s no excuse for all the losing.

Unfortunately, Cousins’s poor winning record has taken a toll on him. After hitting a buzzer beater to beat the Suns earlier this month, he said to reporters, “Man, this city done put me through so much, and I stayed loyal to it the whole time. Hey, I just want to know how you gonna stop God’s plan? God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers. The marathon continues.” The marathon to which he refers, of course, is the parade of different teammates and coaches and the endless losing he’s endured in Sacramento.

Wishful thinking has me hoping that the Kings will realize they’ll never win with Cousins and trade him to an organization that actually has its act together, but that might be a pipe dream. Franchise centers like Boogie don’t grow on trees, and Sacramento would be crazy to deal him unless they have a “Godfather” offer for him.

Cousins is hardly the only superstar athlete to endure such turmoil. The Detroit Lions All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson has had an equally tough time in the early part of his career. Unlike Cousins, Johnson has always been the consummate professional, but like the Kings’ star, he has yet to win a playoff game and has seen his talent go to waste on losing squads. As a Lion, Johnson has made the playoffs just twice, losing in the first round each time, while also playing for the only team to go 0–16 in NFL history.

Sadly, star players are not alone in their suffering on bad teams. Johnson and Cousins are some of pro sports’ brightest stars, but their teams are so bad that they are often prevented from playing in prime time or in meaningful games, keeping casual fans from seeing their immense talent.

An old adage says that stars win championships, and this is certainly true, but they don’t win championships without being surrounded by other talent. No one doubts the greatness of Cousins or Johnson, but the talent of their teammates has long been in question, and they have suffered as a consequence.

Johnson’s Lions appear to be on the up and up — as they narrowly missed winning a playoff game last season — but fans of Cousins can only hope that the Kings are able to engineer a turnaround of their own. Whether through a change in management or pure dumb luck, fans of the NBA and Boogie can only hope the Kings pull themselves together in time to give the best center in the league a chance at consistently winning.