New England Sports 366, #3: Bob Cousy
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
I never saw Cousy play, of course. He retired from professional basketball when my parents were sophomores in high school. My first exposure to The Cooz was in his capacity as a TV announcer for Celtics games alongside Tommy Heinsohn when I was a kid. His gravelly gravitas (and merciless Boston accent) was a tonic for Tommy's homer hyperbole.
Later, I began to learn more about Cousy's singular career. He was the first great point guard in NBA history, leading the league in assists eight straight years. He was John Stockton before John Stockton was born, except with six championship rings. He was an NBA All-Star thirteen times in thirteen seasons, along with 12 first- or second-team All-Pro nods and the 1957 MVP award. The Houdini of the Hardwood, Cousy virtually invented the fast break and the perfect pass. Cousy averaged 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game over his career. To say he's in the Hall of Fame is a given; Cousy was one of only four players named to the NBA's 25th, 35th, and 50th Anniversary All-Time teams.
That's just the NBA stuff. He was a three-time All-American at Holy Cross in College, and later coached six years at Boston College with a 114-38 record including an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight in 1967. He later coached the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA with less distinction.
That's just the basketball stuff. Cousy's lasting impact on the game included his labor leadership. He organized the NBA Player's Association in 1954, the first players' union in the big four sports, and was the Association's president until 1958. He was also an outspoken opponent of the structural racism black teammates often faced, refusing to stay in segregated hotels and using the "colored" restrooms. He chafed at the racism the great Bill Russell faced, even as he knew he would never truly understand it.
His number is retired at Boston Garden and Holy Cross, and to this day he's one of the greats to ever lace it up. I love point guard play because of Cousy and those who followed him: Thomas, Stockton, Magic, Nash, Kidd, Paul. Setting guys up for easy baskets is one of the most rewarding things in sports.
We love ya, Cooz.