Back in '81, at an Atlanta Hawks game versus the Boston Celtics at the old Omni, we got Bob Cousy's autograph.
The Cooz might not have been the greatest basketball player that ever lived, but he was certainly the most innovative. Red Auerbach is said to have invented the fast-break, but Cousy perfected it and was the first stylistically dazzling player to play it while employing behind-the-back passes, full-court passes, between-the-legs passes, and more. At the time, he was called "The Houdini of the Hardwood" and he opened the way for flamboyant players after him, including Chamberlain, Kareem, Jordan, and Lebron. He initiated the artistic self-expression that makes modern basketball so exciting and compelling to watch today.
You really can't overstate the man's contributions to the sport, much less to the Celtics dynasty of the Fifties and Sixties. He really is a hero to us, not only for his playing but for his public stance against racism. Raised as a white kid in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, one night in 1950, rather than stay in the team's hotel in Charlotte, he accompanied teammate Chuck Cooper, the first African-American to be drafted in NBA history, on an uncomfortable overnight train ride after Cooper had been denied a room. He also sympathized with the plight of black Celtics star Bill Russell, a frequent victim of racism. On his retirement from the game in 1963, President John F. Kennedy told him, "The game bears an indelible stamp of your rare skills and competitive daring."
By 1981, we were living in Atlanta and the Cooz was a color commentator for the Celts, despite some sort of speech impediment that made him pronounce his "R"s as "W"s. This wasn't a problem until the Celtics recruited rebounder Rick Robey, forcing Cousy to have to say, several times each game, "Wick Wobey with the webound!" The Celtics wound up trading Robey and keeping Cousy in the booth.
Anyhow, after the Atlanta game (Celtics won 98-90), we walked down to the Celtic's bench and saw coach Bill Fitch and the towering Kevin McHale (6' 10") heading toward the locker room. We couldn't get near them before they disappeared beyond security, but that's when we saw Bob Cousy wrapping up his broadcast on the floor and he graciously gave us his autograph.
That was 34 years ago today. I'm happy to be able to report that Cousy's still alive and well and living in Worcester, Massachusetts.
But this is a music blog and not a sports blog, and while I can't find any songs about Bob Cousy in particular, here's Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on basketball in general.