Sometimes life imitates art.
A scowl had turned across the big dude’s expressive face as he entered the tunnel. Looking around for a hater/heckler, he eventually spotted someone he knew, walked over and gave them a non-nonchalant high five. Slowly, as he chatted a wide grin spread across his face and replaced the mean “I’ll murder-lize you” face.
I have no idea what was said or to whom that night in Sacramento, since it was a televised game and I’m in Florida. But, I recognized the huge guy AND the smile. BIG Cuz. He hadn’t played well that night, and the world it seemed was watching. It was during a painful time, but I knew he how hard he was trying not to let it show.
A few years ago I wrote an article for a Sacramento King website blog soon after they had drafted the 17-year old child prodigy, only two years out of high school. Athletically he was a phenom. But the rigors of the NBA requires a few more gears than that, and there were questions that no one seemed to be able to answer in a definitive way. Risk.
His court antics in college had already made many NBA fans concerned. Of course, I knew that the West Coast mentality was sliding slowly toward a smug fake liberal bent (both good and bad for Boogie), and more than likely a few of their uppity fans were bound to eventually become hypocritically frustrated with his self-confident demeanor. Maybe they would use Demarcus as their whipping boy if things got bad. And for them, things seem to always get bad.
I tried to assure them who Boogie really was, and not to pay too much attention to his press. There’s always a villain, and sometimes it seems big strong black men who lose their temper land at the top of the list. Sure, he could be impetuous, impatient, and act out at times, but I knew that inside Boogie there was a real person trying to grow up fast and get out of his teenage mentality. But, at 6’10 – 265 he looked like and was unfairly being judged as an older mature man who should have a better grasp on situations.
Remind yourself a time right out of high school, and remember what you were doing and what you were thinking back then. Ring any bells?
My King Boogie piece received plenty of interest, mostly bad. I mean, you’d think I had just turned the Boston Strangler loose on the streets of Sacramento judging by the vitriol that soon spewed from the keyboards of their spoiled season ticket holders. Sure a few purist ballers (e.g., ones who don’t actually attend the games just to show off their corporate box) were all for the Big Cuz experiment. I assured them they wouldn’t be sorry. They weren’t. For awhile.
Less than two years later I penned another Boogie story for the same site. This time Cuz was in a slump, and while he had shown signs of great promise from the start, to some he was too volatile and not good enough to be acting like a primadona. Mostly true, but he was still at a very early point in his career and he was growing up fast. When he can bottle his temper, there sits one the nicest most sincere authentic people inside, with a huge and happy heart.
“He can’t shoot, won’t pass, ya-da-ya-da.” Pure nonsense, I demurred.
What’s worse, he had let some of the frustrations of not winning and playing well (something he hadn’t known before) boil over into minor altercations and bad mouthing of the press, teammates, fans, and others. In about the span of a month, Boogie had become a media star… the wrong kind.
In that and another subsequent piece I urged the Sacro-Town boys to keep the faith, that I felt Big Cuz was about to break out, and break out big. I had watched him at Kentucky as a sulking but talented big kid, and recognized his incredible natural talent and Jordan-like desire to win. Mostly, I felt his human side was anything but how he had been projected by the unrelenting media. It hurt, but he held his head high. Maturity rising.
Desire to win. In the NBA, that is the secret sauce.
I understood that he did not care about his numbers, who the big star was, or who took the last shot (as long as they made it). Hell, he likes passing the most. Cuz was just still immature, but he would grow into the force of nature I had suspected? Could he make it through season after season losing without imploding? My short answer was, NOT.
What really set the ball-Sacs off was when I berated them and the Sacramento Community for not taking Boogie’s side in some clearly iffy scuffle situations. It’s though once one get’s a media-driven label, almost everyone jumps on board and repeats the same boring mantra. Fans everywhere were hating on him, but even his own Sac fans discussed his future like he was some kind of thug, a piece of mandingo-meat to shop for the best deal.
I hated what I perceived as their bullshit open hypocritical bigotry. I mean, all was quiet if he was playing well, which was often enough. I suggested they have player-development assign him a big brother type, but if they really wanted him to be at his best… get off his ass!
I called them out and urged Boogie to get the fugg out of Dodge. NOW! He stayed another two years. He’s no quitter and he’s loyal to a fault.
Not just an insult beat down (as if I actually gave a rat), for awhile Sacramento fans trolled me and harassed and called me every meme in the book, on everything I posted. Being sort of a one-time over-the-top-shelf practitioner of that nasty (name game sports-talk-mind-rattle), I let fly. Doubled down with both barrels.
Boom. Kicked off, banned from their site. Ban-Hammer down.
For his part Boogie emerged as a beast on the court, a gentle giant off (he won the prestigious NBA Community Service award a couple years ago), and let out the friendly, funny guy who now apparently gets along with almost everyone. Take a hard look at those who don’t like him, and you’ll learn something valuable. If you don’t like straight talk, you won’t like Boogie. If like me you can’t stand it otherwise, he’s your man.
Oh, and no worries. He’ll get numbers come hook or crook, AND as a team player.
The Warriors got a warrior, one who will happily give up astro-numbers for the ones adding up in the win-loss column. The only one he cares about when he is a part of it. He’s now with like minded players. Cuz has always gotten along well with winners (note his Team-USA stints). Sometimes he’s a little hard on a teammate in the heat of the battle, but he’s learning, but more importantly they’re learning about him. Mostly its the refs that get his ire. I doubt he’ll ever learn where that’s concerned.
He’ll always get a few more technical fouls than others (yes, even Draymon)… just mark it down as being a bull in a china shop who loves to win fairly, and abhors losing.
OK. A team can have too much talent, so I’m not sure how it will work out, but if it runs at 80%, chalk up another crown, this time one for King Boogie too.
Just be Cuz. He who laughs last, laughs best.