Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has always dreamed of playing in the NBA. He dreamed it as a child; he dreamed it in college; he dreamed it when he declared for the NBA draft.
Yet, despite his best efforts to prove himself a dominant big man, the 25-year-old Cousins remains in Sacramento, where he’s been one of the team’s best players for the past five seasons. Now entering his sixth year, Cousins is still holding out hope that the NBA will come calling.
“I’m not giving up yet,” Cousins said, donning his purple jersey prior to team practice. “One of these days they’ll give me a shot. One of these days this’ll be an NBA jersey, not a Sacramento Kings jersey. One of these days I’ll get a real salary and not just an ARCO gas card.”
In college, Cousins teamed with point guard John Wall to lead the ’09-’10 Kentucky Wildcats to the Elite Eight, averaging 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. But while the 2010 NBA draft landed Wall in Washington–where he’s become a bona fide NBA star–Cousins ended up in Sacramento and has been there ever since.
“I really don’t know where it all went wrong for DeMarcus,” said Wall. “I think he’s got what it takes to play at this level. He just needs the opportunity. It’s a tough life down there, man. I was in town once, and he was so excited to show me his locker. Turns out it was just a janitor’s closet, and he had to hang his jersey on a stinky old mop.”
Unfortunately for Cousins, opportunity just hasn’t come knocking. His hopes were temporarily raised earlier this year: A rumor spread that several NBA teams were interested in acquiring him. When it was revealed that the rumor had first been reported by ESPN NBA insider Chris Broussard, Cousins knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
Such stagnancy is certainly not for lack of trying. Cousins can be an imposing force beneath the basket and a rebounding machine. He has shown impressive versatility by shifting to the forward position. He’s improved his biggest weakness (shooting) and continues to make smart adjustments to his game. But when you play for the Kings, whose games are broadcast exclusively on Crackle, even elite-level play probably won’t get you noticed.
“He pushes the boundaries of what a big man can be,” said teammate Rajon Rondo, a former NBA star who won a ring with the 2007-08 Boston Celtics. “I’m honestly shocked he’s never been up. You’d think at least a D-League team would take a shot.”
For now, Cousins will keep trying to prove that he belongs in the NBA.
“It’s like that movie The Rookie,” said Cousins. “The one where old man Dennis Quaid proves to everyone he can pitch in the major leagues. I just gotta prove I can sink buckets in Sacramento and someone will bring me up. If I show them I can be Dennis Quaid, maybe I’ll get the chance.”
Robert Montenegro, like DeMarcus Cousins, has also never played in the NBA. You should follow him on Twitter.