NBA 75: Celtics great Bob Cousy bows out with a fifth consecutive crown

The NBA is celebrating players from the NBA 75 list almost daily from now until the end of the season. Today’s honoree is Celtics star Bob Cousy. This story — after he capped his career with a final championship — appeared in the May 4, 1963, issue of The Sporting News under the headline “Celtics Stroll Title Lane Again in Farewell to Old King Cousy.”

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Bob Cousy made a sensational farewell to pro basketball and the bearded one, Bill Russell, was brilliant as always, but Tom Heinsohn came through with two clutch plays in the sixth game as the Boston Celtics won a record fifth straight National Basketball Association championship.

A record Los Angeles Sports Arena crowd of 15,521, plus another 6,000 watching over closed circuit TV in three L.A. theaters, saw the Celtics score an exciting 112-109 victory here the night of April 24 and take the windup of the best-of-seven series with a 4-2 margin.

Cousy saved his best performance of the playoffs for the finale. When it was over, one of the great careers in pro sports was finished. He wound up his career in a fitting manner as the all-time top scorer with 2,018 playoff points, three more than the Lakers’ Elgin Baylor has.

Russell Peerless Rebounder

But Russell, with much help from Sam Jones in the first five games, was the big man of the playoffs. He scored well until the last game and was a rugged rebounder throughout.

The 6-9 pro great started the dynasty that Red Auerbach has built. Russell is a big enough reason why the Celtics, despite the retirement of Cousy and Jim Loscutoff and the advanced age of several other stars, are not likely to give up the world’s title without a struggle.

The tremendous defensive giant forced the Lakers, for the most part, to slow up their running game and take shots they don’t try against any other center.

All in all, it was financially the most successful series with sellouts at each game and Los Angeles adding additional fans via TV in theaters.

The Celtics opened the series with two victories at home, winning the first one, 117-114, when hot spells by Cousy and Heinsohn pulled out the victory in the final period.

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Celtics Nip Laker Rally

They went on to make it 2-0 in the second when they staved off a typical Laker fourth-period rally to nail down a 113-106 win.

Returning to Los Angeles, the teams engaged in their third straight thriller until the Lakers broke it open with a tremendous Iast-quarter rush that produced 36 points and gave them a 119-99 victory, the only one-sided score in the series.

Elgin Baylor, who wound up top scorer with 193 points in six games, and Jerry West, No. 2 with 177, were phenomenal in the final period, dividing 28 points for a game total of 80.

But the Celtics, opening with a rush, scored the first foreign-court victory in the fourth game, winning 108-105, after almost blowing a 15-point lead in the face of one more last-quarter Laker spurt.

The entire series was well officiated with four officials — Richie Powers, Earl Strom, Norm Drucker and Mendy Rudolph — dividing the chores, and the fourth game produced the only real controversy.

With the Lakers trailing, 108-103, with 1:46 to play, Baylor drove across the key, collided with Russell and tossed the ball in the hoop. Powers called it charging on Baylor. The Lakers’ hopes were dead and more than 15,000 fans were angry.

The clubs flew back to Boston for the fifth game and the confident Celtics had the champagne on ice for a farewell party for Cousy.

Baylor, West Pace Revival

But Fred Schaus’ Lakers had proved their courage more than once, and they came through with a spectacular performance, led by Baylor and West, who had 43 and 32 points, respectively, to score a 126-119 success.

Angry Boston fans nearly rioted in the late stages of this one, with one spectator coming out on the floor to swing at Powers after the official had tossed Heinsohn out for his second technical.

However, Heinsohn made up for his temper display in the finale, though through most of the game he was having a tough time trying to slow up Rudy LaRusso, a tough Laker performer throughout.

In the finale, Boston, behind Cousy’s shooting and passing, piled up a 14-point lead at halftime. The Celts still were 12 on top at the three-quarter mark, then had to fight for life in the closing minutes.

Baylor, checked closely throughout the series by Tom Sanders, and West led a late Laker surge. L.A. was only two points down and had possession of the ball with more than two minutes to play.

But Heinsohn came through with the first of his two key plays, stealing a pass from LaRusso and driving half the length of the court for a layup.

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When Dick Barnett made a three-point play (field goal and follow-up free-throw), the Celtics held only a 108-107 lead. Heinsohn grabbed a missed Boston shot and was fouled trying to shoot by Gene Wiley. He cashed in both tosses and the Lakers were beaten.

Auerbach, who most assuredly enjoyed this championship more than any other, especially when national magazines came out calling the Lakers the coming champ, couldn’t resist one parting shot:

“Los Angeles isn’t the basketball capital of the world, yet.”

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Boston had one jolt in the last quarter of the finale when Bob Cousy, all alone in the middle of the floor, went down in a heap. He apparently sprained his instep, but after ice packs were put on it, managed to come back in the closing minutes to keep the Celtics from falling apart.

While Cousy will be missed, there seems to be no reason to think that, with Russell still around, the Celtics won’t be there or thereabouts.

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