- Elena Bergeron
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Football came first for me. I remember going out to play when I was 5 or 6, and I started playing little league football a year later, when I was 7, in my hometown of Mobile, Ala. I was a quarterback then, and I loved it. It's football. In Alabama. Football is the No. 1 sport there. Everybody in Alabama grows up wanting to play football, and I was determined to get to the NFL. I still, to this day, love watching it.
The middle school days
I made the switch to basketball in eighth grade. I remember walking to football practice, and we had to change in a locker room at school in the basketball gym. I was walking over to the field, and one of the coaches came up to me because he thought I was a junior or senior already. Now, I was real tall at that point, like over six feet. Maybe 6-foot-3, 6-4, and he asked me if I played basketball. He said the team really needed me. And my mom was begging me to play basketball because she thought I was going to get hurt playing football. But I certainly didn't want to play basketball at first. I hated it.
But I was good right away. I was just taller than everybody, so I could score easily. I got my first letter that year too, and I was excited. It was from Indiana. I kind of went to school and showed it off. I still remember that to this day. I was over the top.
The high school years
I started on the JV team for Erwin High School in Birmingham, and I was dominating. I was playing on the Birmingham Storm AAU team too. Looking back on that time now, I probably wouldn't have played as much AAU basketball. It's a lot of wear and tear on your body. I'm 22 right now. I shouldn't feel like I'm 40. It also builds some bad habits ... I'm not going to say that it's not real basketball, but it does give you a false reality of how to really play. But there are positives too. I can't say that I would've gotten the exposure I got from just playing high school ball.
In ESPN The Magazine's Kids in Sports Issue DeMarcus Cousins talks to Elena Bergeron about his childhood