Inside DeMarcus Cousins's Journey Back to the Court

Boogie Cousins opens up about his recovery timeline, the NBA bubble, launching his own comedy show and more.
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It was after a successful comedy show for charity in Sacramento earlier in his career when DeMarcus Cousins realized he could have a hit on his hands.

“Without that first show in Sacramento and the people supporting me the way they did, I probably never would have gotten to this point,” Cousins told Sports Illustrated of his first foray into the comedy world. Now, the former Kings and Warriors center has produced a special for Amazon Prime—Boogie’s Comedy Slam, a 70-minute show based on the stand-up team-ups of yesteryear.

“I was a huge fan of Shaquille O’Neal comedy specials back in the day,” Cousins says. And while he’s always been a fan, he has no plans of getting on stage himself.

“I don’t think I could go up there and do comedy,” the four-time All-Star says. “It’s definitely a respect level there. To be able to go up there and control a crowd, control a room, deliver punchlines, know when to go dry, know when to throw a joke out. My respect for them is through the roof.”

Cousins spoke to SI earlier this month from the comfort of his own home, as he decided not to sign with any of the teams planted in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando while he recovers from a torn ACL. SI chatted with the former Kentucky star about his journey back to the court, what he likes about the NBA’s current setup, his distaste for rollercoasters, and more.

Rohan Nadkarni: I feel like there’s only one comedian who is famous for sitting courtside at NBA games, so I have to ask: Have you had any memorable interactions with Kevin Hart? I know he likes to talk.

DeMarcus Cousins: I’ve had moments with Kevin Hart. There was actually one this past season, a moment during the game. Kevin Hart and Rich Paul were having a conversation, and they were both standing up. If you know Rich Paul you know how short Rich is. Obviously Kevin is small himself. It was the first time I’d ever seen Kevin Hart look normal next to someone else. I told him that he just kind of gave me a dry laugh like, “shut the hell up.”

By far my favorite moment, it was a viral video in New Orleans, where the guy had on the Pelicans warmup and went out there and started shooting. It was actually a good friend of mine, Tony Roberts. He’s a comedian as well. It was the night before my comedy show in New Orleans. He just so happened to get on the court. That was a pretty funny moment.

RN: Who is the funniest teammate you’ve ever had?

DC: I’ve had a lot of funny teammates. I’d probably go between Travis Outlaw and J.J. Hickson. Those are probably the funniest guys I've been around.

RN: It feels like a million years ago now, but you played in the Finals last year. After all you went through to get back, what was that moment like for you?

DC: I’m just appreciative of the moment. There’s not a lot of people who get to say they’ve played in the Finals. I’m somebody that can say that. Was it under the circumstances that I wanted? No. But I’m still appreciative of that moment. All I can do is keep moving forward, working. And that’s what I plan on doing. Hopefully I have the chance to be in another one of those moments, under different circumstances. I’m going to keep working every day, and I look forward to getting on the court soon.

RN: Obviously the physical aspect of recovering from an Achilles tear and then an ACL tear is intense. When I saw you around the Lakers this year you looked like you were in great shape. How hard is the mental aspect of the recovery?

DC: It’s tough, no lie. I’d be lying to say it’s been an easy journey or it hasn’t been tough. It’s definitely been a rough journey. But that’s the nature of this business. That’s what separates the guys that last 15 years in the league to the guys that have a short stint. The thing that I preach to a lot of young players and the younger generation in general, when it comes to being successful or being the best you can be in the business, whatever the field may be, it’s going to take a commitment. There’s going to be ups and downs but as long as you’re committed to whatever you’re doing in life, that’s what it’s going to take. I accept this is part of the business. All I can do is work my tail off to get back to where I want to be.

RN: I didn’t want any part of going to Florida during the pandemic, but once the bubble games started I felt like I was missing out a little bit. Do you feel like you’re missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience by deciding not to play?

DC: I miss basketball in general. I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid, and I’ve never been away from it for this long, so I’m missing it more than ever. But due to the circumstances, it’s a different game right now. Nothing but respect to the guys who went out there to the bubble and are doing what they’re doing. For me, it just wasn’t the right situation or the right time to be trying to force myself. It’s already me battling to get healthy and the obstacles in front of me. On top of that to add the different elements that are amongst us, it wasn’t the right time for me. I look forward to next season.

RN: Now that the games have started a little bit, what do you think of what you’ve seen?

DC: It’s different, but with everything going on, they made it as convenient as possible for the guys that are there. They tried to make them as comfortable as possible. I think the sound effects are great. I don’t know what it’s like being there or on the floor hearing that, but watching it from this point of view, it sounds pretty normal. I think that’s very helpful for the guys on the floor.

RN: It’s hard to imagine what a playoff game will feel like with no fans in the stands. Would you rather step up to the free throw line in front of 20,000 people or in a silent gym? What do you think the playoffs are going to be like?

DC: It’s really going to take a different type of focus and mindset in the situation that they’re in. The crowd helps in so many different ways. There’s times in the game when you can be exhausted and the energy from the crowd can give you that extra boost that you need to make that next play or get that next stop. Now, you’re more dependent on the guys around you. It’s going to take a different focus to make that next play. You don’t have the energy of the crowd or a homecourt advantage. You can’t have your homecourt so loud that it distracts someone at the free throw line. Now it’s quiet on both ends. It’s a different game, and all that played a part for me, it didn’t feel like the right fit. A lot of those aspects played a part in [me not going.]

RN: It’s kind of hilarious to think all of this is taking place at a theme park. Do you have a favorite theme park ride?

DC: I’m not a rollercoaster guy at all. I’m actually afraid of heights. Rollercoasters are not for me at all. I do enjoy theme parks though. I’m more of a different booths that are on the ground. That’s more for me.