NBA 75 Series: #52 Bob Cousy by DJ Hamilton


   Ranked #52 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is the point guard who ran the show during the Boston Celtics dynasty in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bob Cousy. Cousy was the son of very poor French immigrants who grew up on the East side of Manhattanville in the middle of the Great Depression. Cousy would start playing the game of basketball at the age of 13 at Sr. Pascal’s elementary school and eventually fell in love with the game.

He attended Andrew Jackson High School in St.Albans where he was cut from the team his freshman year. He would join the Alban Lindens Press League, which was a basketball league sponsored by the Long Island Press, where he would improve his basketball skills and gain the knowledge he needed to succeed. However, Cousy would get cut again the next year. He wound up breaking his right hand, which forced Cousy to improve his dribbling with his left hand, making him more ambidextrous once his right hand healed.

Cousy’s improved skills caught the eye of the junior varsity coach after an impressive game at the Press League and be named to the junior varsity team before eventually moving up to varsity midway through his junior year. In his senior year Cousy would really start taking off as a player by leading his team to the Queens divisional championship and scoring more points than any other New York City high school player that season. He would be named a Journal-American All-Scholastic and would commit to the college of Holy Cross to play for the Crusaders.

Cousy was one of six freshmen on the Crusaders varsity team in 1946-47 and would struggle to get playing time under coach Doggie Julian. Cousy’s time would eventually increase with his never-before-seen behind the back dribbles, and no-look passes that were never seen from basketball players at that time. The Crusaders would make the 1947 NCAA Tournament as the last seed and would eventually hoist the NCAA crown at the very end, despite Cousy’s poor shooting night where he scored just four points on 2-of-13 shooting. 

Cousy would end up becoming a three-time All-American and proved that he could be the leader of a team after all he endured at Holy Cross. Cousy would get selected first overall to the Boston Celtics in the 1950 NBA Draft after they were just coming off a horrid 22-46 season. Coming into the league, scouts viewed Cousy as flamboyant, who didn’t really make a positive impact on the game that resulted in winning.

Despite the criticism, Cousy would prove his doubters wrong his rookie season by averaging 15.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, which earned him his first of his 13 consecutive All-Star appearances. He even made the All-NBA first team as a rookie! 

Ultimately, Cousy was the first true star point guard and showman in NBA history. Before there was “Pistol” Pete Maravich, Magic, Nash, Kidd, CP3, and so on, there was Cousy, who set the tone for future great point guards to follow decades later, and one of the leaders of those dynastic Celtics teams of the 1950s and 60s, alongside Bill Russell, John Havlicek, and other Hall of Famers. One of the greatest passers and playmakers ever, Cousy led the NBA in assists for eight straight seasons (1953-1960), hit clutch free throws and was an All-Star every year in his 13 year career.

He was a revolutionary player at the time, earning his nickname “The Houdini of the Hardwood.” He could go at full speed and see guys others couldn’t, even those trailing behind him. The league had never before seen someone with his exquisite peripheral vision. He was a tremendously passionate and intense player, so much so that he would often suffer from stomach cramps and chest pains in the locker room before big games, similar to his teammate Bill Russell. Cousy was the heart and soul of those Celtics teams that featured Hall of Famers Bill Sharman, Russell, Satch Sanders, Tommy Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, and others.

Cousy’s list of accomplishments is impeccable, being a six-time champion (1957, 1959-63), becoming the first guard to win league MVP (1957), a 13-time All-Star, two-time All-Star MVP, 12-time All-NBA, and a member of the NBA’s prestigious 25th, 35th, 50th, and 75th anniversary teams. In 1971 he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cousy left the game respected by players, and worshiped by fans as no other player had been before him, and as few have been since. He was a pioneer showman who razzle-dazzled fans like no one had before with his passing flare and dribbling skills. He was “The Houdini of the Hardwood” with the ball.