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Nobody embraced Golden State like DeMarcus Cousins, the fallen Warrior

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Cousins’ Warriors tenure has been married by injury, but his brash joy for the franchise will never be forgotten.

Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors - Game One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When DeMarcus Cousins collapsed to the floor clutching his leg in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers, my heart sank. Non-contact leg injuries in basketball are always scary, especially for a giant still rehabbing from a devastating Achilles injury.

For him to blow out his quad on a gritty defensive hustle play tore me up even more. How much had Cousins been derided for perceived defensive shortcomings and lack of hustle by the media and even by some fans? He risked his season and his future by laying his body on the line for his teammates and the franchise.

The Warriors will miss having the presence of a versatile giant as the playoffs intensify. Moreso than that, they will miss having a man that was exceedingly thrilled and grateful to wear the Golden State uniform.

Boogie was hyped to join the party

For the majority of my life, superstars have not wanted to play for my hometown basketball team. Cousins was the first Warriors free agent signing I saw that really embraced the rock-star aspect of playing for the Bay’s dynasty.

Remember last summer when everyone thought the Dubs were just chilling after their second straight victory parade? As all of the free agent stuff kicked into high gear, news suddenly dropped that DeMarcus freaking Cousins was signing with the champs.

There was the infamous video that broke basketball Twitter, when Cousins went straight Mafia Mode in finalizing the signing.

It was surreal watching him strutting through his house like a made man. I remember when the Warriors couldn’t sign an All-Star big man to save their lives! How many years did Shaq and Tim Duncan just bodybag our bigs? When we had Andris Biedrins, we thought we finally had a center of the future!

And yet, there was DeMarcus, arrogantly announcing to the whole world that he was coming to Oakland to play in Oracle Arena.

Watch as Cousins’ signing breaks a grown man on television.

On a Showtime doc entitled “The Resurgence” covering his return from last year’s injury, Cousins talked about the people who didn’t like him joining up with the Golden Empire (transcribed by NESN).

“I don’t give a (expletive). I’m saying it now that I’ve seen the reaction that I didn’t give a (expletive). I knew what my ace was and we made the call.

“There’s some mother(expletives) out there that’s probably ripping their hair out right now, and I love it. It’s just another test for me to overcome. I’ve been through so much adversity, if I sat there and dwelled on those moments, where the (expletive) would I be right now? I don’t need anybody feeling sorry for me. I’m a fighter, I never give up, and I’m taking this challenge head on.”

Flashback to when the Warriors signed Kevin Durant; it was like the X-Men adding Wolverine. A quiet, brooding superweapon carrying a tortured past (OKC) with penchant for going berserk and dominating when the team needs him most. KD’s stoic discipline to his craft is as ice-cold as his aloof media personality. He doesn’t like being forced to be social under the spotlight. He’s too cool to really flaunt the joy of playing in roaring dynasty. (And I have no problem with that at all; DO YOU KD! Just make sure to lay the smackdown on Patrick Beverly.)

Remember when KD wrote his letter to the Players Tribune announcing he was leaving the Thunder? He tried to be as professional about it as possible:

The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”

Great piece; it also took until the end of the second paragraph of the letter for KD to finally mention he was joining the Warriors.

Juxtapose that with an Achilles-tattered Cousins who also wrote a letter to the Players Tribune entitled “Golden State of Mind”. Here’s the first two lines:

“Yeah, I am a Warrior now.

It was the best basketball decision I ever made, and I’ll tell you why.”

Cousins is a joyful teammate

During Cousins’ lengthy rehab as a Warrior, he missed the first three months of the season. In that time, he was a consummate teammate, breaking up the KD-Draymond Green fiasco, and cheerleading from the bench like a madman.

There’s also the mentor side, per Connor Letorneau of the San Francisco Chronicle:

During a first-quarter timeout in Golden State’s preseason opener against Minnesota, Cousins reminded Jones to hammer home a dunk whenever he has an open driving lane. Six days later, when Jones snagged an errant lob pass from Kevin Durant and threw it down for a thunderous alley-oop, Cousins, grinning, erupted from his seat along the baseline.

“We’ve been really happy with how he’s been a mentor to the younger guys,” head coach Steve Kerr said of Cousins, who hasn’t spoken to reporters since media day because he is sidelined by an injury. “Whenever they need something, he’s there to help.”

My favorite moments of Cousins weaponizing joy this season:

#1.) Cousins laughing at a crazed hater in the crowd.

2.) His first basket as a Golden State Warrior coming on a thunderous dunk against the Clippers. What are the odds that both his first and final games of the season were against the Clips?

3.) And finally, his best game of the year, on the road against the Houston Rockets.

Golden State stressed the importance of winning Cousins a ring this year. Now, they’ll have to do it without their fallen warrior.