Former NBA sharpshooter turned analyst JJ Redick turned heads recently, when he seemed to downplay the greatness of Hall of Famer and Celtics legend Bob Cousy.
Redick was trying to make the point that the greats of yesteryear, like Cousy, faced relatively weaker competition than do the stars of today like Chris Paul. Redick even quipped that the old-timers used to play against "firemen and plumbers" in the days before the maturation of scouting and player development.
But Cousy caught wind of Redick's comments -- and he doesn't seem to agree with the sentiment at all.
During a recent radio appearance, Cousy suggested Redick had "less talent" than he did, and that Redick was merely trying to bring attention to his budding media career.
"People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said. "So, when you respond to something like this, you play into their hands.
"I won’t do that, but I will defend the firemen and the plumbers that he referenced, and I’ll just give you a few of the names of these firemen that I played with and against during those years. How about Bill Russell, the aforementioned, not too bad a player. Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well."
Cousy, now 93, won six NBA titles and the 1957 MVP Award with the Celtics from 1950-63. He was selected to 13 All-Star teams and named First-Team All-NBA 10 times.
Still, critics say Cousy's career should be put in its proper context, at a time when the sport was only just beginning to integrate. The shot clock wasn't adopted until several years into his pro career.
That is presumably the point Redick was trying to make, but it didn't read that way to Cousy, who rattled off the litany of legends he played with and against.
"Still, the best, in my judgement, small forward that ever played the game -- a guy named Elgin Baylor. A couple of point guards that weren't too shabby -- my colleague who also had an award created, a guy named Oscar Robertson, who was pound-for-pound the best player, perhaps, in the game. Jerry West wasn't too shabby. The guys on our team -- Sam and KC Jones. A guy named Hondo -- Havlicek -- wasn't too bad. Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey, George Mikan, Bob Pettit. I could go on and on.
"We must have had the best firemen and plumbers on the planet at the time, and I was very proud to play with all of them."