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Jack Cooley Is The Greatest Sacramento King Ever

Just retire the jersey now. No need to wait.

Sacramento Kings fans have been treated to a turd-sandwich brand of basketball for almost 15 years now. In that time they’ve also dealt with approximately 33 coaches, 48 point guards, and 84 relocation attempts. We don’t ask for much, if you can’t actually win and be competitive, please hustle and look like you want to be out there.

Sometimes that’s a problem.

Enter Jack Cooley.

Some Kings fans have been followers of The Church of Cooley since last July.

A sweltering Vegas afternoon was the setting for another in a long line of NBA Summer League games, when ol’ JC entered. A tornado here, dervish there, and the guy went for something like 83 points and 113 rebounds in 20 minutes. Chants of “Cooley” were all over the gym, and we officially had our Summer League mascot.

Fast forward to October, when JaKaar Sampson and Jack Cooley became our two-way G-League players. We would read box scores and hear about monster Cooley games, but all too often it didn’t translate to game time in Sacramento.

Until Friday night.

Against the Magic, Cooley came in and put up 8 points and 3 boards on 4-6 shooting in just 8 minutes. I’m not good at math, but that works out to something like 44 points and 33 rebounds per 36. But that wasn’t why the Golden 1 Center crowd was chanting his name.

We in Sacramento love love LOVE blue collar people. We loved Scot Pollard, Jon Brockman, Bobby Jackson, Animal Smith, dudes that just bust their asses. And Jack Cooley reminds us of US. He looks like a guy playing rec league, with his combed hair style and, um, not-Adonis build. He makes us want to get wristbands that say “WWJCD” (What Would Jack Cooley Do)?

But he has heart. And of COURSE he has massive skills, you don’t just wander onto an NBA court because you try hard. He sets every screen like its his last. He hits the floor like the toppling of Godzilla, and gets back up much like we would seemingly struggle to get up…..but then he hits the floor again twice as hard.

This was all during a game between the hapless Magic and the slightly more hap-ful Kings, two irrelevant teams stuck in NBA no man’s land, with the only real motivation being that both fanbases wanted their own teams to lose (for ping pong balls). It became clear early that the Orlando coaching staff would’ve likely slipped a bunch of Mickeys into the team gatorade if they had to in order to preserve the loss. The Kings would’ve won Friday if Slamson and Ailene Voison were in the backcourt feeding James Ham and Sean Cunningham.

Jack Cooley didn’t care. He doesn’t have time for tanking and such. He knows each NBA minute could be his last, and he plays like it. He reminds us all of the miracle of making it in professional sports, that for every LeBron James and Kevin Durant there are 400 Jack Cooleys. Except of those 400, about 398 don’t play with half the fire. And that’s why we love him.

Jack Cooley will likely never be an all-star. If we look at just the odds, Jack will be on his way to another team next year, then perhaps to Europe, before we read a blurb someday that he’s retired and doing a radio show in Illinois. Thems the odds. And if that happens, he will have done what 99% of the world hasn’t: get paid to play in the NBA.

And lest this cross the line from appreciating hustle and effort to an almost mocking of a “big lumbering guy” etc, no. No no no. Make no mistake, dude has skills. Work ethic and hustle, yes. Skills as well.

For the record: Heart is a skill. We are all born with one, but not everyone uses it. Does Jack Cooley have the talent of a top-flight NBA all-star? No. How many players with that sort of talent have we seen through the years that combined with Jack Cooley’s heart would be all-stars or even hall of famers?

My point is, there are few things more tragic in sports than wasted talent. And Jack milks every MILLIMETER of talent out of himself, that’s why he’s so damn fun. Those odds are stacked against him, and he’s blinded himself to it.

But here’s the thing- Jack Cooley didn’t become Jack Cooley by caring about the odds. Jack Cooley busts his ass, whether he’s in an NBA game, a game in Reno, or being the best damn teammate on the bench. You could see it with his fellow Kings when he scored, Zach Randolph looked like a 6 year old kid on the bench cheering his guy on. He doesn’t just get along with teammates, they adore him. Even former Kings and Survivor contestant (and all around badass) Scot Pollard digs the guy:

In yet another season filled with “next year” and lottery talk, Jack Cooley is one of the fun stories. With just over 20 games left in the year, why NOT let Cooley get some serious playing time? What do you have to lose except perhaps the games, which you will probably lose a majority of anyway?  The home fans both at the arena and watching on TV would love to see this guy get some serious run.

Best part? Cooley knows damn well how lucky he is. One would respond “you make your own luck”, and he certainly has. But this guy isn’t brooding, isn’t pissed that he never gets his shot. He simply plays a true 100% every play, and carries that over to the bench and the locker room. When his number is finally called, he jumps up and is as ready as if he’d played 30 minutes a game, every game. But you can tell this guy takes nothing for granted. Just listen to his postgame interview with Kayte Christensen:

Here’s to Jack Cooley. In a sweltering, never ending desert of pseudo-NBA basketball, he’s the touchable mirage. He’s everyman (and woman).

Watching the game with my 9-year old basketball playing addict son, I point to Jack Cooley as the guy I want him to pay attention to.  As a father, I can think of no higher compliment.

And in the long, dark tunnel of Sacramento Kings basketball, he’s part of the light this season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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