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NBA / Sep 1, 2014 / 6:15 pm

Why DeMarcus Cousins Is Right When He Says, “I Am A Role Model, Absolutely”

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins (USATODAY)

It’s easy for fans to malign DeMarcus Cousins. His behavior on the court can be equal parts brilliant and cringe-worthy — of the latter, when he goes out of his way to antagonize a referee he feels hasn’t been fair. But when Cousins recently told NBA.com, “I am a role model, absolutely,” he wasn’t being ironic. The boy from Mobile, Alabama has grown into one of the more dominant big men in the NBA and after making Team USA this summer, following two exasperating tryouts in the last two years, the sky’s the limit — just don’t tell the fans still gulping the Boogie haterade in a 42 oz. Slurpee cup.

Here’s the pull-quote from NBA.com’s Cousins feature that probably caused most fans to jump on Twitter for their best Boogie Riff-Raff impression:

“Me and my mom talk about it all the time. My story is crazy. Anything that I’ve been through, anything that I have accomplished, it was always the hard way. Nothing ever came easy for me, and that is just something that I have kind of accepted. I know it’s never come easy for me, and I think that is why I am the way I am.

“I just learned to accept that, and it’s just going to make my story that much better.”

How he is, could be summed up as determined.

“I’m just not the type of person that gives up. I accept all challenges, and I feel like I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. That’s just the fire within me. I don’t think I can ever be stopped.”

That attitude is why he says people do and should look up to him.

“I am a role model, absolutely. There are different types of people out there, and I come from a different type of place. So, I absolutely think I am a role model.

“I come from a place where there are not a lot of opportunities,” Cousins explained. “People there, they don’t ever really dream big because they don’t think it ever really exists. Like the things you see on TV, they think it’s just a false world. And them seeing me make it, they believe it is possible. Those people grew up with me; they have seen the struggles; they have seen me fight and work my way to where I am now, so I absolutely believe I am a role model.”

Maybe it’s because we’ve always loved the big man ever since he was drafted out of Kentucky by the Kings with the No. 5 pick in 2010, but we whole-heartedly agree with his belief he’s a role model.

Though he angered fans and teammates alike with an indolent attitude towards defense, and a penchant for glowering at officials and teammates when something went wrong, he’s always been someone whose heart seems to be in the right place. Call him the playground bully that just wants to be loved. Then again, he might have an antecedent, at least in terms of production and the complicated attributes wrapped up in the noun, “Role model.”

As CBS Sports’ Matt Moore alluded to, there was another bundle on the block who made waves by telling fans in a Nike spot, “I am not a role model.”

While Charles Barkley was referencing the disconnect every time a child looks up to a professional athlete as their role model, rather than a parent, like Cousins, he was a lightening rod for criticism early in his career. It was only after Chuck retired and started his wonderful turn as TNT’s resident Falstaff did his public perception flip and everyone learned how endearing he could be as a former player who always spoke his mind.

Cousins is similar, especially when you look at his teammates in Sacramento and the supporting players around Chuck in Philly before he was dealt to Phoenix — where he was named the NBA MVP in his first season (1993).

Cousins had a top-5 PER last season (bested only by Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and LeBron James), and while he still isn’t the defensive dynamo fans and analysts seem to believe should be second-nature to someone so physically gifted, he has made strides on that side of the court — whether fans want to take the time to watch him in a games to spot the difference, remains to be seen.

Numbers like the one’s Boogie produced in Sacramento last season — 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, not to mention that 26.1 PER — should necessitate an All-NBA selection, but so far Boogie has still not been named to an all-star team or to an All-NBA team.

As Cousins mentions in the piece, he’s always taken the hard road to get where he is today. A large percentage of NBA players have risen up out of hard-scrabble backgrounds, at least in comparison to the general population, but there is something endearing about Cousins’ grabbing his lunch pail and going to work. The fact Boogie finally made Team USA after two consecutive tryouts — the first of which went dreadful, with USA chairman Jerry Colangelo wondering if Cousins would ever warrant a spot on the men’s national team — is a testament to his growth as a player and person; he’s finally earned his place.

If you watched him against Turkey, there were ample opportunities for him to lose his head. He was whistled for a couple rinky-dink fouls and turned the ball over in what probably should have been called fouls on the opposing team. Still, Boogie’s sour face only flashed across his countenance for a moment before he moved on and just tried to play harder.

It’s also an attribute you’d want in a role model, as hard as that is to believe for someone with Cousins’ history. DeMarcus Cousins a role model, we just have to give the basketball-watching public enough time to warm to the idea.

Is DeMarcus Cousins a role model?

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