Bob Cousy would not be a star in today's NBA - but still top-50 All-Time

Nothing seems to arouse the emotions of NBA fans as much as the Bob Cousy-as-all-time-great controversy. Individuals either defend him to the hilt or degrade his abilities with a vengeance. As always, the correct view lies somewhere between the extremes.

Cousy's main attributes were his passing, basketball IQ and court vision. In the 50's and 60's, his ball handling was good enough to thwart most defenders of that era, and he used it to maneuver his way to the hoop for a layup or assist. What Red Auerbach originally saw as theatrical antics by Cooz-as-facilitator certainly generated fan appeal and usually got the job done. The 13-time All-Star and 8-time Assists Leader was an innovator and true star in his time. But things have changed.


Accelerate to the present. The NBA players are bigger, quicker - and just plain better. Cousy averaged 18.4 PPG in his career with 38% accuracy. His one-handed set show would get blocked repeatedly in today's game, and his forays to the hoop would very often fail. His scoring and shooting percentages would both take a hit. His primary values today would be his passing and savvy, as they were in his prime. They wouldn't fail him. But with bigger and quicker players on the hardwood, we would not see his 5.2 rebounds per game nowadays.

So, would Cooz be a star in today's game. The answer is "no", but he would be a core guy coming off the bench, passing off to his teammates for the scores. And I argue that Cousy's long, down court outlet passes are still some of the best I have ever seen. It is wrong to make comparisons by moving players of the past and present to a different era. It is meaningless. Cousy remains a top-50 NBA player because of what he accomplished at the time. But I admit that we wouldn't see the same level of play from him in the twenty-first century. Picture him defended by Marcus Smart or guarding James Harden. You get the picture.

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