Basketball Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy clapped back at JJ Redick for comments made a month ago on ESPN about players in the 1950s and 1960s. Redick was arguing Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s inclusion of Cousy as one of the great point guards of all time. Redick said Cousy competed against firemen and plumbers.
“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.
“So when you respond to something like this, you play into their hands. I won’t do that, but I will defend the firemen and the plumbers that he referenced. And I’ll just give you a few of the names of these firemen that I played with and against during those years. How about Bill Russell, the aforementioned, not too bad a player. Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well. But in any event, Wilt Chamberlain.”
“I guess [Wilt Chamberlain] must have fought fires as well”
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) May 19, 2022
For the record, Redick was right to challenge Cousy’s inclusion on the greatest point guards of all-time list. But what we really need to stop doing is comparing players from different eras.
Of course there were great players in Cousy’s era. Some of the best. But the majority of players in that era were not Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Jerry West. They were players like Bill Gabor, Paul Hoffman, and Whitey Skoog.
The NBA today is more talented top to bottom. Nobody in the league today could make it if basketball wasn’t their full-time obsession. The players are too good and talented.
League average players today as determined by EPM (0.0) and WS/48 (.100) are names like: OG Anunoby, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Tobias Harris.
Yes, Cousy was a six-time champion 13-time All-Star and 12-time All-NBA. But the man couldn’t dribble with his left hand. Those accolades are meaningful in his era but they wouldn’t be equivalent in today’s NBA.
There are some players from the past who would be good in today’s era because of their athleticism and skill. Chamberlain for sure. Cousy would not.
That’s OK. He should be celebrated in his proper context. One of the greats of the ’50s-’60s. But he is not anywhere near the top point guards of all time.
Evolution is a natural part of life and sports more than any field experiences that. Players are bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled today than ever. And there are more of them.
Cousy also loses credibility as he names Elgin Baylor as the best small forward of all-time. Another Celtic named Larry Bird has more of a claim to that title than Baylor, and Bird isn’t even the best.
Maybe the 93-year-old Cousy doesn’t watch the modern game. Has he heard of LeBron James and Kevin Durant?
As long as we have talking head shows we will forever have these discussions. Russo is 62 years old and views the NBA through a very limited lens. So this really isn’t even Cousy’s fault. Russo, like legendary media member Bob Ryan see the game through the lens of the past, and as such it makes it difficult for them to appreciate it’s beautiful present.