Can Demarcus Cousins Recover from his Achilles Injury?


To say Demarcus Cousins is one of the most talented players in the NBA is an understatement. He's blessed with a rare blend of size and quickness. He has a deft touch around the basket and surprising range from outside. He can even run the fast break and defend the rim when he's feeling particularly engaged.

Even though he's know as one of the NBA's most temperamental players, Demarcus expected to command an NBA max salary at season's end. But in a shock development he didn't command any offers at all!

 In fact, Demarcus' agent had to go on the offensive at the start of free agency after hearing crickets. League executives twiddled their thumbs as the talented big eventually signed with the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. Why did so many teams pass on Demarcus while the NBA champs signed him up to a one year deal?

Well, we know why: the dreaded Achilles injury.

Demarcus Cousins Achilles Injury: How it happened

NBA pundits expressed shock when the New Orleans Pelicans traded for Cousins midway through the 2016-2017 season. Long considered one of the NBA's more mercurial players, he was a risky acquisition.

The pairing of Demarcus and superstar big Anthony Davis seemed initially ill-conceived. Having two star big men playing side by side in today's NBA is counter to conventional wisdom. Star bigs need room to operate, and there was fear that the modern-day twin towers would get in each other's way.

But the pairing began to pay dividends during the 2017-2018 seasson. Davis and Cousins worked out the kinks and began wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. In fact, some experts were tapping the Pelicans as a dark-horse to upset the Warriors with their “bigs-heavy” lineup.

Then, unfortunately, during a game against the Houston Rockets, Cousin's suffered a ruptured Achilles.

There’s a reason we use the term “dreaded” to describe an injury that has derailed several NBA careers. And it has left Cousin's future cloudy. The question on  NBA fans mind now is "how effective will Cousins be when he returns?"

Achilles Ruptures - Hard to Tell

Unfortunately, I don't have the answer. This is a complex injury. Cousins is a huge man. At 28 years old, he seems young-- but not in NBA years. The window for professional sports success is notoriously fleeting. And Cousins is competing with the top athletes in the world. He's going to be putting a lot of stress on his body by even being out there.

There's a chance he could recover and perform at his previous levels. But there is no guarantee here. Let's hope Demarcus has a successful return and contributes to the Warriors juggernaut. Let's hope he gets his big contract extension after this season. Let's hope we get to see him finally fulfill his mouth-watering potential.

While we don’t know what’s going to happen with Demarcus, we can delve into the past. For comparison's sake, let's take a look at some other NBA stars who have returned from Achilles tendon injuries.


KOBE BRYANT (Ruptured Achilles) Recovery Level = Good


With a good case for being one of the top 5 NBA players ever to play the game, Kobe Bryant was a true superstar. Every time Kobe touched the ball, there was a chance something amazing could happen. Case in point: Kobe scored 81 points in a single game and scored over 60 six times! 

But the impact of many years of jumping, landing, cutting, changing direction, and banging takes its toll. Considered something of a bionic, even Kobe's legendarily bulletproof body eventually wore down. And some experts think that the beginning of the end for Kobe came when he ruptured his Achilles. 

Kobe's injury, suffered near the end of the 2012 season, was a third-degree tear, meaning that the tendon ruptured completely. 

Kobe did return and had some great moments in a Lakers jersey after the injury. I would say that his return was successful overall. However, like many pros at this level who depend immensely upon their jumping ability, the Achilles injury may have sped up his eventual retirement from the sport. Because of his age and the amount of wear and tear Kobe underwent during his long career, it's hard to say conclusively. 

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL - Achilles Strain. Recovery Level = Bad

Speaking of dominant players, we have Kobe's former teammate, Shaq. With such a huge body, it's a wonder that this behemoth of a man was able to play 19 years in the NBA. Let alone to have the skills to dominate the way he did, leading the Lakers to three championships and capturing a fourth with the Miami Heat.

However, by the time he signed his final contract (with the Boston Celtics), Shaq's physical dominance had diminished as age and injuries took their toll. He became more of a role player than a superstar. Unfortunately for Shaq, his physical decline was exacerbated by a recurring Achilles strain that led to his retirement.

The injury first occurred during a Christmas Day game. It would mean that Celtics fans saw very little of Shaq on the floor wearing the green and white. Nonetheless, O'Neal did enjoy a hall-of-fame career and will be remembered as one of the best of all time.

DOMINIQUE WILKINS - Ruptured Achilles Recovery Level = Excellent

Dominque was an electric, powerful, captivating player who was aptly nicknamed "The Human Highlight Film". You might not see him compared with Michael Jordan when people talk about the greatest players of all time. But Dominique was definitely mentioned in the same breath when we talk about the most dominant players of the 1980s. When it came to  dunking the basketball with power and style, 'Nique was one of the best. He inspired an entire generation of high-flyers with his "tomahawk" and "reverse" dunks.

Unfortunately, Wilkins tore his Achilles during the 1992 season. Many expected it would be the end of his career.

They were wrong!

Dominique definitely lost some a bit of his explosiveness post-injury. But this is a case where he actually improved upon his stats after recovering. He averaged almost thirty points the season he returned. And he continued to pad his stats, averaging 25 points per game during his final 300 games. I'd call that bouncing back with success.

Got an Achilles Tendon Injury? You Aren't an NBA Player. you'll be ok!


 As you can see, an injury to the Achilles tendon can be a debilitating injury, but it doesn't have to be something that causes a long-term problem. We'll see what happens to Demarcus. We hope he comes back to full strength.

But you aren't an NBA player, and you won't face the same rigors or pressure to perform. We can definitely get you back to doing what you love sooner rather than later.

If you've torn your Achilles, feel free to reach out to Dr. Elton or the staff at Vail/Summit Orthopaedics for more information on how we can help you.

We are actively practicing our new, minimally invasive technique for Achilles ruptures!