I was thinking of adding “Boston Celtics and pro basketball legend” to the title, but I depressed myself thinking it was necessary, which of course it is. When Bob Cousy retired, in 1962, there wasn’t a more famous NBA star alive. Now, not only is the play-making wizard who led the Boston Celtics through the beginning of their unparalleled dynasty unrecognizable to most Americans, so is the kind of basketball he played, before it was all dunking and styling by pituitary cases.
But I digress.
In the newly published book “Last Pass” by Gary Pomeranz, Cousy, the Hall of Fame Boston Celtics captain who led the team to its first six championships, opened up about his relationship with Bill Russell, the great, enigmatic, difficult, defensive genius who was the center on Cousy’s teams, and on many Celtics championship teams thereafter. Russell was the first back superstar in sports-crazy, perpetually racist Boston, and as he reaches 90, Cousy is reflecting on what he did, and what he didn’t do, as the white superstar on a team whose brilliant black center was often the target of racists. In the Boston suburb of Reading, vandals once broke into Russell’s home, spray-painted racist graffiti on walls and defecated on his bed. The Cooz, as he was called, is remembered as being ahead of his time as an NBA player in his sensitivity to race and civil rights. Still, Cousy blames himself for not having done enough, and for not having understood the depth of prejudice Russell faced as an African-American in Boston. Cousy told the historian that he wants to make amends. Continue reading