DeMarcus Cousins: ‘I’ve never lived a life of regret’

DeMarcus Cousins, an 11-year NBA veteran who last played in the T1 League for the Taiwan Beer Leopards, sat down with HoopsHype, on behalf of Panini America, to discuss his experiences in Taiwan, his NBA career, his relationship with Michael Malone, his mental resilience during the latter years of his career, and his thoughts on the current state of the game.

You recently played in Taiwan. How was the experience?

DeMarcus Cousins: You know, I’m blessed to be in the position to have basketball take me all over the world, meet different people, and experience different cultures. So, that’s one of the better things that comes with this sport. On top of that, you get to meet people who have the same love and passion that you do for the sport.

So, you know, with that being said, my time in Taiwan was incredible. I met some really, really nice and genuine people, and that’s a rare thing given the times we live in now. So just to be able to meet genuinely nice people with good intentions, that’s a really dope thing. And I actually cherish that because it is rare in today’s time.

So, you know, that’s cool. Just the culture, the way they carry themselves, the hospitality. And, you know, I’m a huge foodie. The quickest way to win me over is with a good plate of food. So, I went over there and the food was incredible. You know, the hot pots and the Wagyu barbecues and things of that nature.

It was really cool. So I enjoyed my time there. I look forward to spending more time there. And, you know, like I said, this game has taken me all over the world. I’m really blessed.

Do you have hopes of making a return to the NBA in the near future?

DC: Honestly, no. I know I’ve had my time there. You know, there was a point where I was trying to make that happen. But the place I’m in my life now, just with everything I’ve got going on, just outside of basketball, like I’m in a good place. So, like I said, I’m excited for what I have ahead and my future.

You know, my 12 years in the league were a small chapter or chapters in my life. And, I’m ready to move on to the next and see what’s in store for me.

With your recent experience playing internationally, can you share the differences you've noticed between playing in international competitions and playing in the NBA?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

DC: Well, the biggest thing is probably the language barrier, but at the end of the day, basketball is like a universal language when it comes to the game where you don’t even have to know the next person. But it just kind of makes it easier. Like it’s hard to explain, but when you’re on the court, it’s kind of easy to understand.

But also, outside of the language barrier, there’s not much difference. I mean, there are a few tweaks in the rules here and there compared to, you know, maybe the NBA or FIBA leagues, which obviously have different styles of basketball in some leagues. But, at the end of the game, the foundation of the game is the same.

So, there aren’t too many or any type of drastic differences. Basketball is basketball with us and that’s what makes it so dope.

What are your thoughts on Michael Malone and your time with him during your last stint with Denver?

DC: You know, he’s well-deserving. He’s a guy who’s really put his time into this league. He’s grinded his way from the bottom to now being in the position that he is in now, being a championship coach. Super deserving, hard-working guy. He prides himself on being a defensive coach. So obviously, the saying goes, defense wins games and championships. So to see his philosophy end up working out in his favor, that’s dope.

It’s really, really cool to see. I’m honored just to be a small part of his story. His story will continue to be great. And, I’m just, I’m honored to say I have a small part in this story. Coach Malone [is] a great guy. He’s a great coach. He’s getting everything he deserves.

Given the significant changes you've experienced over the past few years, transitioning from being an All-NBA player to your current situation, how have you navigated the mental challenges along the way?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

DC: I’m not a person who really shies away from adversity because at the end of the day, once you overcome those things, it only makes you stronger mentally, physically, and in all the weak areas in your life. So, I’m not really a guy who shies away from it. Obviously, if it’s avoidable, I’m all for it. But, you know, I’m a firm believer in how it helps you grow.

And I’m a product that’s growing every day. I want to better myself every day. My goal every day is to be better than the previous day. So, I’m all for growth, and I’m loving the growth and finding out different things about myself that I didn’t know before and discovering talents that I didn’t know before.

Just being able to no longer be confined to just one box of being a basketball player. I’m able to venture out and get my hands and feet into different things that I never thought I could before. And it’s been working out in my favor. So, I’m excited for my future. I’m excited for my growth, and I’m in a really, really good place and I’m happy about that.

Are there specific seasons you reflect on and feel like things didn't go as planned? Whether it's because of injuries, missed opportunities, or other factors, do you find yourself considering "what-if" scenarios?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DC: Well, it’s two moments that stick out to me in my career. And, you know, the first one is the guy we spoke about earlier, Mike Malone, before he was fired in a season.

I got sick with meningitis, so that kind of messed up our season and just messed up everything we had. We could have had a move but they fired Mike Malone in that stretch because there were a lot of games lost. But prior to that or before that even happened, we were in a really good stretch of basketball.

We started the year off really, really good and we were confident and we felt like that was our year to make things happen. So, it’s nothing that I was really in control of at that moment. But it’s always there.

‘What-if it never happened-type’ thing? So, I would say that moment, and I would say the moment in New Orleans when I blew out my Achilles going for it.

I remember, once again, I’m just doing my job. I want to make all the right plays and go out there, win games. But it’s always that thought in that moment. Could it have been controlled? What if I never went for that rebound? Or what if I never missed that free throw? You know what I mean?

So that’s another moment that, I think about like, what if. But as far as living life with regrets, I never do.

I feel like you learn from every loss and every win, but more so the losses. I’m okay with that. Like people call them L’s. It can stand for loss or it can stand for lesson.

So, I’ve never lived a life of regret because like I said, every moment, good or bad, is done to improve you in some type of way. And I’m all for it.

Do you have a Top 5 list of players whom you consider the best in the league right now?

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

DC: I don’t really want to get into a Top 5. I’m a huge Anthony Edwards fan, I think. I think he’s a superstar in the making, a future face of the league. Well, the next superstar face of the league. I think he’s going to carry the torch and just keep this league afloat. I am a big Joel Embiid fan. And I think just watching the center position continue to evolve between Embiid and Jokic, and just watching the different things these guys can do, but just Embiid in general, just the fadeaway, the touch… he’s a super incredible player. I’m a huge fan of any big with a skill set and the reason I say that is because I wasn’t the most athletic guy.

I based a lot of my game just on IQ or skill, so I value that and players. So I usually gravitate to those types of players. But him, I like [Victor] Wembanyama, I like Chet [Holmgren]. I think those two guys and Bol Bol as well. Obviously, he doesn’t get the media attention that those other two guys get, but they’re all in that same category of just evolving the game of basketball, seeing seven-foot guys do things that we’re used to seeing 6-foot-4, 6-foot-3 guys do.

So, just seeing the game continue to evolve. Basketball’s in a really, really good place. So, it’s some young guys coming up that I think are going to be really, really special. So, it’s cool to see, and it’s cool to see the game continue to evolve.

Who was like the hardest person to guard in your career?

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

DC: I came in the era where, when I entered, it was still two bigs in the post type, you know? So, like I said, I’m right on the cusp of the old-school ball to the new-school ball. I’ve kind of seen both sides of it, and man, there are so many talented guys.

I mean, there are more guys that don’t even get the recognition. Now, [Al] Jefferson, Chris Kaman, and Marc Gasol, players of that nature, didn’t have the opportunity to play against guys like Zion [Williamson] and things like that. But I would say, for me, Anthony Davis has always been a guy that I’ve been a huge fan of, you know, his younger days in New Orleans, and we had a lot of battles.

Anthony Davis is a guy who doesn’t always get respect from the media. Blake Griffin in his days was a special, special player. So, I enjoyed the battles against him. Z-Bo [Zach Randolph], is one of my favorites. I took a lot from his game. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t the most athletic guy. So, just learning how to use your body and create angles, and you know, make the game easy.

We rely on athleticism so much, but learning how to make the game easy and minimize the athletic part. Z-Bo was incredible with that. I’ve had the opportunity to play against some really, really special players. I played against Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, you know, first-ballot Hall of Famers, guys that paved the way for skilled big men.

I even got the chance to play against Shaquille O’Neal in my rookie season. So like I said, I’ve seen both ends, and you know, I’m able to just single it down. The one person who was harder to guard? That’s impossible. There are so many talented guys that come to this league. And I’m blessed to be able to say I had a chance to match up with these guys.

How is it working with Panini during All-Star Weekend?

DC: It’s a really, really cool feeling. You know, obviously, growing up as a kid, you got friends, you might be into it yourself, but everybody was. Especially back in my day. Everybody was collecting different sports cards and things like that. So, you know, just to fast forward to where I am in life, to, you know, people are now collecting my autograph or signing on a sports card.

It’s a really, really cool feeling. It’s almost like a full-circle type of moment. Like to want to be in that position and now be on the other side of actually being the guy that signed the card. So a really, really cool feeling. This honor, obviously, comes with a big responsibility, but at the end of the day, it’s cool.

And I’m honored to even be in this type of situation. So I’m blessed as well. That’s a really cool ad for you.

Do you have any say in deciding which picture is used on your card?

DC: I don’t think I had that much input. Like I said, it’s just an honor even to be in that type of situation.

So hopefully when it does come to my pictures, it’s one of my better moments so far. Like I say, being an athlete, you know, being caught up in the moment, I’m pretty sure we make some ugly faces. So I just hope it’s one of my better moments.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype