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JJ Redick Stirs Things Up

How do you judge players from an earlier era?

Bob Cousy Action Portrait
BOSTON -1960: Bob Cousy #14 of the Boston Celtics throws a pass at the Boston Garden circa 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts. 
Photo by NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images

We’ve been big JJ Redick fans since he committed to Duke and what he did in the NBA. We have immense respects for his accomplishments at Duke and in the NBA and we greatly admire how he has turned what was a minor podcast into a real force that has led him to a promising media career. He’s not at all shy about saying what he thinks.

But he’s not always right, and his comments about Bob Cousy aren't entirely correct.

If you missed the kerfuffle from ESPN’s First Take, Mike Russo said that Chris Paul “was not Bob Cousy,” and Redick, who is close with Paul, said that Cousy played against “plumbers and firemen,” which is funny and partly true.

In Cousy’s day, it was a different world. The NBA was brand new and his first contract with the Celtics was for $9,000 dollars in 1950. The league was only beginning to integrate; Boston drafted Chuck Cooper later in the same draft Cousy was taken (he was taken by the Tri-City Hawks then traded to the Chicago Stags and finally got to Beantown when the Stags folded and a dispersal draft was held).

And of course it was an earlier stage in the evolution of basketball. Some guys worked other jobs and played for the love of the game because it just didn’t pay that much. It would be years before we would start to see hints of what the game has become.

The first hints, though, were from Cousy. He had a spectacular court sense and could do things that remind you of what would come later from Pete Maravich, Ernie DiGregorio, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Is it fair to compare him to Chris Paul? No, not really.

Things have changed enormously. It’s a completely different game today than it was in the 1950’s and early ‘60s.

But when you go back and look at Cousy and some other early stars, notably Bob Pettit, KC Jones, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, you could kind of get a sense of where things were heading. Cousy is a key figure in the game and shouldn’t be dismissed so casually.

*****

Stephen A. Smith jumped in at one point to argue that Chris Paul was one of the top point guards in NBA history - we think he said top four but can’t find the exact comment now.

Well, no. He’s not.

The first prerequisite is winning championships. If you start there, we think most people would agree that Magic Johnson, West, Isaiah Thomas, Oscar Robertson, Steph Curry, Walt Frazier, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and Cousy would have to be in the conversation.

For guys who didn’t win championships, we think most people would agree with John Stockton, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Nate Archibald, Lenny Wilkins, Maravich and Paul.

You can rank it however you want to, but in terms of accomplishments, Paul is pretty far down the list.

Correction - Jason Kidd won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.