I never met the great basketball player, Bob Cousy, the man known as “the Houdini of the Hardwood,” yet he somehow influenced my life in ways I never knew, or to be more accurate, in ways I didn’t reflect upon except in superficial ways. He was the guy who brought professional basketball into the modern era with his bag of fancy tricks that included no-look and behind-the-back passes, uncanny dribbling, and a magical court sense that made the fast break into an exquisite art form. The captain and point-guard of the Boston Celtics from 1950-1963, Cousy led the Celtics to six NBA titles, made thirteen all-star teams, and changed professional basketball from a stodgy, boring, and slow game into a fast-paced spectacle, entertainment as much as sport. He was a wizard with a basketball and set the stage for Guy Rodgers, “Pistol Pete” Maravich, Bob Dylan, Magic Johnson, and Steve Nash, among other tricksters, modern Hermes.
Over the years I have written a great deal on a very wide-range of topics, but it wasn’t until a friend from high school recently sent me Gary Pomeranz’s fascinating book, The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End, that something clicked for me. A few weeks previously, as the weather had turned spring-like, I had started to shoot hoops at our basket in the driveway. The warm air, the feel of a loose flowing freedom as I dribbled and shot, brought me back to the days when I spent so many hours playing in the Bronx schoolyards of my youth, perfecting my skills in what I can only call a fanatical way. Rushing to the schoolyard after school and on Saturday mornings to be the first there, to command the court, to compete with the older guys and beat their asses. Traveling around the city’s best basketball neighborhoods to play and make my mark. The
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