“[Bob Cousy] was being guarded by plumbers and firemen.”
J.J. Redick did his new job — making headlines for ESPN — very well when he said that while debating Chris “Mad Dog” Russo about Chris Paul, Cousey, and Russo’s all-time point guard rankings on the network’s show “First Take.”
Cousy fired back a few days later saying, “People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people… 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.”
Jerry West — another Hall of Famer from that era — took his shot at Redick on SiriusXM NBA Radio, questioning Redick’s credentials.
“I just think it’s very disrespectful”
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) July 22, 2022
“Tell me what his career looked like. What did he do that determined games? He averaged 12 points a game in the league.”
Of course, it’s more nuanced than either side wants to admit — but nuance doesn’t grab ratings or headlines.
Comparing eras in any sport, particularly basketball, is exceedingly difficult. When Cousy and West played, many players had to have a second job to make ends meet (Cousy himself managed gas stations at one point). That took away time from honing their skills, not to mention their focus. Players today have access to far better training techniques, equipment, knowledge about conditioning, and the luxury of time to work on all those things. If today’s NBA players were making G-League salaries, they’d have second jobs, too, and it would have cut into their time to work on their game.
West and Cousy were unquestionably legendary players and competitors — they overcame obstacles Redick and today’s players never have to think about just to get the chance to play in the NBA. On the other hand, today’s players are unquestionably better trained and conditioned athletes than those that came decades before. Even during the 1980s, on the Showtime Lakers, players made fun of Mychal Thompson for working out with weights in the offseason. Different times.
But when Hall of Famers are calling out ESPN personalities, it gets attention. I guess that is what everyone was going after in the first place.