When thinking about how special Rajon Rondo is, we can't forget another Celtics point guard who was very special also. Robert Joseph Cousy turns 84 today. Just as Bill Russell revolutionized the way the NBA played the game with his defense, Bob Cousy revolutionized the way the NBA played the game with his ball handling. Cousy is one of the most loved and revered Celtics of all time but he almost wasn't a Celtic.
Coming out of Holy Cross, with a huge local following from his college days, many expected Cousy to be the logical choice of the Celtics in the draft. He was already a New England hero with 3 All American honors to his credit, but Red Auerbach wasn't as easily impressed. Red snubbed Cousy and instead picked center Charlie Share, commenting to the press. "I'm supposed to win, not go after local yokels". Some in the press criticized Red but others saw Cousy as a hot dog and felt that his fancy ball handling wouldn't work in the pros.
The Tri-Cities Blackhawks ended up drafting Cousy, but he had been trying to start a driving school in Massachusetts and didn't want to move to that area. Cousy demanded a salary of $10,000 from Blackhawks for compensation for giving up his driving school. They offered him only $6,000 and Cousy refused to report to the team. He was then picked up by the Chicago Stags who folded soon after, so he never played a game for them.
The league offered 3 of the Stags players in a dispersal draft: Max Zaslofsky, Andy Phillip and Bob Cousy. The Boston Celtics were one of the three teams invited to choose from among the 3 players. Red really was hoping for Zaslofsky but would have been happy with Phillip and the one player he did not want was Cousy. And, of course, the Celtics drew Bob Cousy and he became a Celtic, through the luck of the draw, even though at the time, Red didn't consider it all that lucky.
It wasn't long before Red changed his mind about his new point guard. Cousy averaged 15.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists a game and was named to the first of 13 consecutive All-NBA Teams. His ball handling and innovative passing changed the way the game was played. With Cousy at the point, the Celtics were contenders every year, but they could never quite get over the hump and win the title until 1956 when Red added Bill Russell to the team. Now, they had the big man to get the ball to Cousy and they never looked back.
Bob Cousy retired from the game in 1963 at the age of 35. He was honored by a packed crowd at the Garden as they said farewell to the man who almost didn't become a Celtic but who remains one of the most loved of all time. As a testament to Cousy's legacy, President John F. Kennedy sent him a wire that said, "The game bears an indelible stamp of your rare skills and competitive daring."
Here is what Bob Cousy had to say about Rajon Rondo:
"I've been watching the Celtics for the last 50 years, and Rondo is the first point guard since moi that I've been really excited about. Bird excited you, but he wasn't a point guard. JoJo [White] wasn't a point guard. He's the first since moi to get my attention."
"What more can this kid do? He sees the floor extremely well. He's even starting to put what my old coach, Doggie Julian, would call a little French pastry on a play, going behind the back. The kid is only 24. People talk about the Big Three. But this is the Big One. The sky is the limit as far as I can see."
If you look carefully, you can see a lot of Cousy in Rondo, or maybe it's vice versa.