DeMarcus Cousins returned to Sacramento on Thursday, and with his return came many memories and emotions, both good and bad, along with a debate the Kings community still needs to have: Should Boogie's jersey be retired?
The query is a difficult one because there are obviously no objective conditions a player needs to meet in order to have their number hoisted to the rafters. Oftentimes, camps divide along their intuitions which they can readily defend in virtue of the player's statistical performance and community investment, or the team's on-court success and post-season appearances, as well as a dozen other fleeting nuances one can conjure up.
After some careful thought and research, I’ve landed on the more unpopular side here among STR writers. I don’t believe #15 should ever be alongside Peja, Vlade, Webber, Richmond, and many others (some undeserving). Across the aisle, in the pro-retirement camp, Adam Beddawi will be adding his always nuanced arguments.
Tim: My opening salvo is the main reason why I don’t believe DeMarcus should have his jersey retired at the Golden 1 Center; he had zero actual on-court success while wearing a Kings uniform. In his 6.5 year tenure, the Kings failed to ever make the playoffs, failed to ever reach .500, and never even won 35 games in a season. It’s not just that the Kings couldn’t quite make it over the hump into the postseason, it’s the fact that they never even got close:
Not only could the Kings not find their way to the postseason, but they actually found themselves on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Between the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, and the All-Star break in which Buddy Hield joined our squad, the Kings were the third least successful organization in the entire NBA, trailing only Minnesota and Philadelphia.
Worst Teams in Cousins Era
I fully realize that Cousins was a part of an organization that flubbed decision after decision, blew draft pick after draft pick, and made just about every bad call that a franchise could make, but that still doesn’t erase the fact that the Kings were simply a failure during the Cousins era. How can I put a player’s jersey in the rafters who had no success here?
Adam: Despite being the tallest member of StR, here you are without a leg to stand on (sorry). My first argument in favor of Boogie's jersey being retired is a negative one, and it comes in response to the question posed by the lankiest member of StR: why retire Boogie's jersey if he had no success here?
The answer, I think, is that success has never been a barrier to entry in Kings' lore. Mitch Richmond was an unassailable choice to have his jersey retired, but here is how his teams fared in the playoff race during each of his seasons here: 14GB, 14GB, 14GB, 2GB, playoffs but only 3GA, 2GB, 14GB. His teams won an average of 31.6 games per season. For comparison's sake, Boogie's Kings won an average of 28.8 games in his 6.5 seasons with the team.
If Mitch's teams had only won four less games during the 1995-1996 season, we'd be talking about a guy without a playoff appearance whose jersey retirement was still just as much of a no-brainer. While Boogie probably shouldered more responsibility for the Kings' mediocrity than did Mitch, success is a strange hill to die on when it comes to who *should* go down in Kings history.
Tim: While Mitch may have only made the playoffs once, and otherwise struggled to make it to the postseason, don’t we have to draw the line somewhere? If Cousins had managed to play past April one time, and had actually won a playoff game or two, I might be swayed a bit more easily, but I can’t get away from the fact that he never managed to lead a squad to a playoff race deep into the season. Mitch was able to, DeMarcus wasn’t.
After my long opening point, I would love to hand it over to you to answer the question why he should be honored by having his jersey retired.
Adam: I am always in favor of drawing lines! However, the reason why I think we shouldn't draw it at Boogie takes me to my positive argument in favor of his jersey being retired. For starters, Boogie put up Hall of Fame numbers during the years we had him. Almost every Kings fan engaged in earnest debate with people who denied he was the best Center in the league, and we all felt completely justified in our position! He made three All-Star teams as a King (even though in Vlade's perfect world it'd have been two). Draw the line at someone else!
But the reason to retire Boogie's jersey that I'm most convinced by is because I think it's the best way to tie a bow on what was perhaps the most tumultuous decade a sports franchise has ever had. That so much happened during the Boogie era was the main reason I wanted to him to stay, until it became the main reason why the Kings decided to move on from him. Boogie vacillated between being the best and most stressful part of a time which spanned the fall of the Maloof era, the (brief) good part of the Vivek era, and the bad bad super weird part of the Vivek era (not to mention his time preceded the new "woke" Vivek era). He was amazing in the community and, despite the mediocrity of the team, a source of so many great Kings moments.
There's something to this, I think. Boogie was undeniably the most important part of the ethos of the last decade of Kings basketball. And while the general vibe around the team has improved since Boogie was dealt, the Kings also went on a little mini-smear campaign in which they blamed him for a culture he did not wholly create. Kings fans would have to agree this was unfair, since it directly clashes with sort of common knowledge around here that Boogie was not only at fault. The way the team has handled the trade only exacerbates the ugliness the entire franchise saw during Boogie's time here.
Perhaps my point is ultimately from the Brad school of thought (it's definitely from the Brad school of argument), but retiring Boogie's jersey would be a symbolic way of righting this cosmic wrong. In doing so, the Kings could wink at the ugliest part of their history, while also recognizing one of the five best players in franchise history.
Tim: The stats argument is certainly the strongest one in your favor. He's 6th all-time in scoring and rebounding, 4th all-time in total blocks, 6th in PPG, 4th in RPG, and 7th in BPG (he's also first in total turnovers, but I'll leave that one alone).
It's interesting you also bring up culture. While he wasn't the complete cause of the issues within the franchise in his time here, he certainly didn't go out of his way to help assuage some concerns as well.
There's the fight with Donte Greene, the Furillo incident, the nightclub fight, flipping off a Warriors fan and yelling expletives as well as the 108 technical fouls, and 10 ejections in his six seasons.
Should all of those issues prevent him from the honor or his jersey being retired, or does his work in the community more than make up for the rest?
Adam: I would say two things regarding the issues you mention: Since the impact they have on our relationship to the team is impossible to discern, Boogie's community service (a known quantity) should absolutely make up for them. Also, regarding the impact they have on the team's culture: plenty of testimony from Boogie's former teammates would suggest that he was still considered a great teammate despite those issues. All of this is to say that considering Boogie's off the court issues should be a wash here. Blaming him for things he had a direct hand in can only take your case so far, while there is a litany of evidence that suggests Boogie was actually one of the few good things about the franchise during his tenure.
Tim: I thoroughly enjoyed Boogie during his time here in California. He’s one of only a few jerseys I own, and the only jersey that my wife currently possesses. He was a ton of fun for most of the time, and led the Kings to many emotional wins, but he certainly had his share of warts as well.
I’ll close with this, and have your words be the last. I hope this is the last DeMarcus Cousins article I ever have to pen. The raw emotions Cousins elicited, and the constant inability to predict his behavior was absolutely exhausting in hindsight. DeMarcus is like the crazy friend you keep inviting to your nights out, and you think you’re having a ton of fun with them, but half the time they’re out of control, causing problems, and getting you into more trouble than you ever wanted. After a few years, they move away and you realize there’s a sense of relief to stability, maturity and growing up that our star center never seemed to master.
DeMarcus Cousins will almost assuredly go down as the most vexing and controversial player in Kings history. For me, his amazing skill set was simply lost when you broaden the scope to actual on-court success, and his community service is contradicted by his inability to contribute to a positive work culture. If the good and the bad seem to just about balance each other out, and you’re not absolutely certain that a player deserves the honor of having his jersey in the roster, it’s best to say no.
Adam: I also hope that we’re done talking about DeMarcus Cousins, and by that I mean I hope that we can all agree on how to consider him. To borrow your rhetorical trick, I would compare Cousins to a significant other one might have during a transitional or developmental time in their life. DeMarcus was great, and the Kings could have been great with him, but perhaps both passed through eachother’s orbit at the wrong time. Both the Kings and Cousins can look back and recognize how Boogie’s growing pains, when mixed with the Kings’ front office turnover and decade-long Draft misfires, led to a natural and chaotic death.
To the extent that a jersey retirement is an acknowledgment of an era, to do so would mean the Kings did right both by them and by Cousins. Oh, and also his stats were really fucking good.
What do you think?
Should DeMarcus Cousins’ jersey be retired?
This poll is closed