Amari Cooper’s thanksgiving day celebration that mocked Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz’s free-throw routine is a new low, even for the Cowboys.
Some actions are so subtle that it takes a more-than keen eye to notice exactly what’s going on. When Dak Prescott hooked up with newly acquired wideout Amari Cooper for a 90-yard touchdown on Thanksgiving Day, casual football fans around the country watched on as the Cowboy’s touchdown celebration antics reach a new low.
On the surface, it appeared as if the Cowboys’ supporting cast possess better discipline than 90 percent of the NBA in obeying lane violation protocol before Cooper’s free throw hitting the rim. As a Philadelphia 76ers fan disgruntled with the well-publicized Markelle Fultz saga, I immediately turned to my family in the room and asked: “Did he just mock Fultz’s free throw form?”
Compare for yourself:
Fultz’s Free Throw Form
This new free throw routine for Markelle Fultz is…. interesting. pic.twitter.com/QooVqEVNlf
— LastWordHoops (@LastWordHoops) November 17, 2018
Cooper’s TD Celebration
Amari Cooper really did Markelle Fultz’s latest FT routine as a TD celebration.
— ESPN (@espn) November 22, 2018
And I wasn’t alone. Sixer fans took to Twitter asking the very same question, only to be confirmed by the very source of the hot potato pre-shot routine. To be quite honest Fultz’s reaction to the beyond uncomfortable situation, laughing it off and giving Cooper a “Good shot boy” shoutout on SnapChat, was commendable albeit slightly cringe-worthy.
Want to know what Fultz & Co.’s reaction was to Cooper trolling him on tv? pic.twitter.com/DPmAFtgzm6
— Sarah Todd (@NBASarah) November 23, 2018
Whether Fultz is realistically able to “laugh it off” or he is just repressing true feelings of humiliation and embarrassment internally, to call Cooper’s actions “distasteful” feels like an understatement.
As a fellow athlete who experienced the roller coaster ride that is the to the pros, all of the ups and downs, the determination and hours upon hours of hard work that it takes to get to that stage which literally none of us reading this could ever relate to; one would believe that Cooper would have compassion and understanding for the struggling young guard.
Yes, there’s contrast in the way each player reached the point they’re at today. From the abandonment of his father early on in his life to his high school coaches cutting him from the varsity squad his sophomore year of high school, Fultz’s road to the league has been far from a cakewalk.
Even after earning a scholarship to Washington, his team underperformed and failed to make the tournament, leaving Fultz to be questioned and scrutinized as the number one overall prospect in the 2017 NBA draft class (I being one of the many who used this and continues to use this as support as to why the Sixers should not have moved up to draft him).
Cooper endured adversity in his early years as well. He grew up in the projects of Miami. His mother worked multiple jobs at a time without a car to support the family. Cooper broke a team rule resulting in a demotion to JV his freshman season at Coral Gables Senior High School. Instead of rejoining the varsity squad his sophomore season, Cooper opted to transfer.
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Cooper’s transition into Miami Northwestern High School marks the fork in the road where his journey and Fultz’s begin to differ. Cooper hopped on to a team with four fellow future division one receivers and a future first-round draft pick at quarterback in former Viking and now-Saint Teddy Bridgewater.
A four-star recruit in the class of 2012, Cooper opted to join Nick Saban’s juggernaut in Alabama to fill the vacant shoes of former standout receiver Julio Jones who helped bring Saban his first national title at Bama in 2009.
Cooper’s numbers eerily mimic Jones’ with a solid freshman season, a significant drop in yards during his sophomore campaign only to come back stronger than ever in his junior season before declaring for the NFL Draft. The first of two separate factors being Jones brought the title his sophomore season while Cooper did so as a freshman. The second: side-by-side Cooper blew Jones out of the water statistically speaking, finishing his career for the Tide over 800 yards and 16 touchdowns better than Jones.
Despite all of the dichotomy in the pre-professional journey’s of Cooper and Fultz, somehow the two collided come draft night with Fultz, in former-GM Bryan Colangelo’s controversial decision to trade up, selected first overall by the Sixers and Cooper selected fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders.
It’s hard to top Fultz’s lack of early production and the bizarre storyline following the commonly labeled “bust” off the court, but Cooper’s early performance has been far from top-five talent. Cooper’s young career has been relatively mediocre, above-average yes, but nothing spectacular.
In his first three-plus seasons Cooper has 2016 as his lone “top talent” season where he ranked 10th in receiving yards, and he is yet to crack the top 10 in receptions or touchdowns in any season since coming into the league. His first two seasons warranted back-to-back Pro Bowl selections, but have not supported his top-five pick and his 2017 season led to concerns about his future and the thought that Cooper may have peaked very early.
Clearly, Fultz is fighting some mental demons, and pawing the ball like a cat with yarn is his latest attempt to fight through his injury and likely a case of the yips. One would believe that instead of mocking a 20-year old on national television, Cooper would feel for the kid. Especially since the supposedly “elite” receiver has been engulfed with his own case of the butterfingers dating back to his days in Tuscaloosa.
As noted by Kevin Saito of Golden Gate Sports, Cooper’s often overlook flaw coming into his draft year were drops. He led the league his rookie season with 10-drops and ranked towards the top again in 2017. Additionally, his catch rate through the first three seasons was 57 percent. Yes, that’s better than any percentage statistic Markelle Fultz has produced in his time in Philly, but it’s far earning “elite receiver” status.
Perhaps Jerry Jones’ arrogance has rubbed off on Cooper since moving to his new home in Dallas. Maybe Cooper is playing into Jones’ hand as the infamous Cowboys Owner/GM/Coach/Wannabe Player dangles a fat wad of cash above the receiver’s head.
Maybe the wideout really can’t relate to Fultz’s struggle. Cooper was holed up in the sub-market of Oakland where Raider nation’s questioning is a needle in the haystack of scrutiny Fultz endures in the fourth-largest sports market in the country with the most passionate (and often critical, though rightfully so) fanbase.
So while Cooper was only featured on SportsCenter in the likes of a top ten play or a touchdown reception, Fultz’s every move has been front and center since being drafted into the traveling circus that was Bryan Colangelo-era Sixers, culminating in the scandalous burner-account debacle.
Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to imagine a valid reason why Cooper would choose to belittle a fellow athlete who did nothing to warrant the ill-natured mockery. If he’s trying to win over the new fanbase in Dallas, I don’t believe the Mavericks-Sixers matchup tops of the “List of things Cowboys fans give a hoot about”.
In an article I co-authored with Justin, I argued that the Eagles should’ve made a move for Cooper and that it hurt to watch the Cowboys acquire him. Based on the highlights, he seemed well worth the money. But that’s why they’re called highlights. We don’t see the drops; we don’t see the mistakes and come to think of it, we see a lot of the Eagles less-than-stellar secondary on the wrong end of a Cooper double-move.
Believe whatever your heart desires, but this classless display in his third game with the team solidified my belief that guy, in the long run, isn’t worth a first-round pick. The Eagles may be struggling, but the locker room is still tight and filled with tight-knit teammates and iron-clad camaraderie. If these are the type of antics that Cooper is into, he’s found the perfect home in Dallas.
My support for Markelle Fultz can only be classified as unstable and constantly wavering. One minute I feel for the 20-year old thrust into immense scrutiny on behalf of the blunderous decision to trade up and acquire the kid first overall by a General Manager who wasn’t able to control his wife, if you even believe that from creating several fake Twitter accounts to defend his collar size (when you put that on paper it sounds all the more unbelievable and crazy).
Then the Athletic reports that Fultz feels a “fresh start” with a “change of scenery” would be best for him despite denial from his agent, and I’m ready to ship him out to Shanghai with Jimmer for a heaping platter of General Tso’s chicken in return. Then Cooper pulls this stunt out of his pocket and once again, I’m feeling for the kid.
The Markelle Fultz era may very well be over in Philadelphia. Whether or not he will be part of the franchise going forward is up in the air, but for the time being he’s still a part of this team, and he’s still a part of this city. One thing’s for sure; you don’t mess with the City of Brotherly Love.