Quinn Cook’s online dead end is bursting with challengers.
During the few weeks in April, when Cook hosted a nightly marathon Instagram live feed, it attracted all levels of players. He would chat live feeds with Kevin Durant and Victor Oladipo, All-Stars that are from the same region in Maryland where Cook grew up. But he would also allow cameos from D.C. area street players, whose names are known only in gyms and playgrounds, and who inevitably want a piece of him.
It matters little that the Lakers guard has an untouchable record at every level: McDonald’s All-American, national champion at Duke, NBA titlist with Golden State. For a lot of people, the 6-foot-1 guard still looks like an ordinary boy – and now five years after his NBA career, Cook welcomes it to be constantly underestimated.
“Seriously, I’m an easy target of sorts,” he said in a recent interview with the Southern California News Group. “I knew (Instagram live) that I would get some warmth from guys who want to challenge me. Guys who want to be the best guard in (DC) and see where their game is. They see I’m in the NBA behind good players But when I was in (Prince George’s County), I walked through it. ”
What Cook has left out of the way, however, is reverence for the history of hoops. This comes across in projects he has helped with: he was an important voice in Basketball County: In the Water, a Showtime documentary about Prince George’s County, where he, Durant, Oladipo, Michael Beasley and others originated. He has an upcoming autobiographical children’s book, “The Cook Book” that promises to describe his life and “recipes for success” when it will be released later this summer.
But it’s easy to see that these projects are small offshoots of Cook’s greater passion for talking basketball non-stop. His broadcasts are filled with debates about players who never made it to the league (“We want to give boys their flowers,” he says). He receives guests from Baltimore (Will Barton) or Philadelphia (Dion Waiters) to discuss all-time regional squads and how to compete against a D.C. all-star team – and good luck convincing Cook that D.C. would ever drop a game. He has created an environment in which participants feel comfortable enough to do bizarre things: Lance Stephenson said he could take everyone one on one.
He hosted IG Live broadcasts on P.G. and D.C. basketball for weeks before anyone realized they could promote his documentary or book – he’s doing this for fun.
“I mean, of course, if you have a lot of time, you get together and you always debate about that team versus that team, that player versus that player, all these hypothetical match-ups,” he said. “I didn’t even think about the documentary – when I started, it was a month and a half away. It was just a fun time talking rubbish to each other.”
It could be argued that Cook is as connected as everyone else in the NBA: through the stars he befriended in P.G. County, through his Duke roots and on a championship team. He has been teammates with Durant, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Anthony Davis. His broadcasts were proof of his network: anyone could dial in at any time.
And yet Cook’s attitude is disarmingly grounded: he would chat to a group of strangers just as quickly as NBA superstars – his IG Live broadcasts are surprisingly democratic that way. His manager is his brother, Norman, who lives with him. Superstars as well as anonymous basketball players see him as a banner shaky for P.G. County hoops.
Cook’s perseverance made him an ideal subject for a book in the eyes of Jack McClinton, a former University of Miami star whose company Active Dreamers worked with him to help create “The Cook Book.” McClinton sees the odds dramatically against Cook: his dad, a devoted Lakers fan, died when he was young, and made it to the NBA despite stepping six feet and through a complicated path in the G League.
“When you think of a children’s book, there isn’t really a real story, like a princess kissing the frog,” said McClinton. “There aren’t many stories you can think of, like the real story of how Quinn defied the odds and dreamed bigger.”
Today, Cook has work to return to: he goes to the Lakers’ El Segundo practice center, where he teams up with assistant Mike Penberthy on the field and strength trainer Gunnar Petersen on it. With momentum gaining for the league to return, there is likely much less time to host hours of basketball videos with real games on the horizon.
But in a world trapped by quarantine, Cook has been one of the players to open doors and reveal pieces of himself to a restless world. And he thinks part of his personality will never change: when the world opens up again, and basketball courts with them, he will compete against everyone.
“I’m a man who comes home: I play outside, go to this gym, that gym, see all these guys,” he said. “I want to interact with everyone. I’m just saying I’m home every summer, if we really want to play. ”