In recognition of the start of the NBA season, we honor as the Boston Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Week the first in a long line of superstars to play for the Boston Celtics.
Before there was Bill Russell and Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics were powered by a 6-foot-1 inch guard from Holy Cross. Bob Cousy was the on-the-court leader for the Celtics in the era during which they emerged as a basketball power.
After earning All-America honors for three straight seasons at Holy Cross, Cousy was originally drafted by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, but refused to sign with the team. He eventually joined the Boston Celtics and, as they say, the rest is history.
Cousy led the NBA in assists eight straight years and also scored more than 20 points per game in four seasons during his career. Known for his creative passing, Cousy was dubbed the “Houdini of the Hardwood.”
Making an immediate impact as a rookie during the 1950-51 season, Cousy averaged 15.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists as the Celtics improved from 22 wins the year before to 39 during his rookie season.
It wasn’t long before Cousy was an All-Star regular and annually honored as a member of the All-NBA team.
The Celtics continued to improve, but it wasn’t until the addition in 1956 of Bill Russell, K.C. Jones and Tom Heinsohn that the Celtics finally became a championship team.
Cousy averaged 20.6 points and 7.5 assists during the 1956-57 season to earn MVP honors as the Celtics went 44-28 in the regular season. They claimed their first World Championship by defeating the St. Louis Harks in seven games.
It would be the first of six championship teams Cousy would play on during his career.
In his 13 seasons with the Celtics, Cousy was an All-Star each season and was a first team All-NBA pick ten times.
Cousy retired following the 1962-63 season with career averages of 18.4 points and 7.5 assists per game.
While serving as coach of the Cincinnati Royals, Cousy made a brief comeback at the age of 41 during the 1969-70 season.
Cousy was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971 and his number 14 hangs in the rafters at the Fleet Center. He was selected to the NBA’s all-time team for the 25th anniversary of the league, the 35th anniversary and the 50th anniversary. He is one of only four players to be selected to each of those teams.
If you had a favorite athlete growing up that you would like to see featured as the Boston Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, send me a nomination by e-mail.