Cousy: His Life, Career, and the Birth of Big-Time Basketball Mass Market Paperback – 31 Jan 2006
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"An insightful biography...[and] a shining history of the early NBA."
-- "Kirkus Reviews"
"A sharp, well-written portrait of a Boston sports icon and his pivotal role in the growth of his team and his game."
-- "Boston Herald"
"[An] astute, insightful biography."
-- "Sports Illustrated" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Bill Reynolds, coauthor of Success Is a Choice with Rick Pitino, has won numerous awards for his columns in The Providence Journal. The author of several books, including Fall River Dreams and Glory Days, he lives in Providence, Rhode Island. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story starts with Cousy's young life during the depression in a New York ghetto, and his life in a dysfunctional home. He used basketball as a means of acceptance and eventually as a means to greatness. Ironically, he was cut by his high school team in his freshman and sophomore seasons, which drove him and spurred on his killer instinct. When he made the team, he went on to become the captain of the all-city team.
Then, Reynolds describes how Cousy picked Holy Cross for his college education, and how, contrary to the myth, he did not "lead" Holy Cross to the NCAA Championship his first year. He goes through his spats with his first head coach in college "Doggie Julian", and his great respect for his successor, "Buster" Sheary. He also covers how Cousy wound up on a Boston Celtics team that didn't want him and how legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach took jabs in the press at Cousy, so that he would know who was in charge, despite the press' love of Cousy.
He goes through the hard years of success without championships and then the great championship run that came after the Celtics drafted Bill Russell. He also covers Cousy's business ventures off of the court and his life after basketball.
What sets this book apart from a simple factoid book of the 1950s was how Reynolds digs past the surface to show how Cousy's upbringing created an irrational fear of failure and an unhealthy competitive streak that Cousy had to learn to deal with throughout his life. Depsite his success, Cousy was in many ways a tortured soul, feeling like he had to do all he could to provide for his family, yet regretting the time he spent away from home and the sleepwalking and nervousness he felt as he went through his career, trying to satisfy his competitive urges.
Why 4 stars? I rate basketball books agaisnt each other. 5 stars is the top 1/5 of books. This is a very good book, and 4 stars is a high compliment.
This book does a supurb job of talking about professional (and college) basketball as it changed in the fifties from a dream to a main line professional sport. He picked the right character to use as the centerpiece of the story. Bob Cousy was everything the sport needed, a superstar player, a solid family man when that was one of the things expected from a professional athelete, unassuming but with a killer instinct to win.
This was a time when at 6' 2" Cousy could be a superstar, and there was never any question of anything like the drug mess that is currently hitting baseball. Perhaps life was simpler then, although there was the fear of the Soviet Union and nuclear war, and Bob Cousy was the perfect man for the time. Wonderful book.
I found the answer to my question in Cousy's difficult early years, growing up poor in a family where his parents didn't get along and where coaches assessed by his size rather than the size of his heart. From those hardscrabble beginnings, Cousy developed a fundamental insecurity that meant that winning wasn't a desire, it was the only state of being that was acceptable to his perfectionist self. But that psychological need was balanced by a strong identification with the underdog and the oppressed . . . even if he wasn't always sensitive enough to act on those feelings as often as he could have. I enjoyed that part of the book very much.
But the bulk of the book is really about how professional basketball went from being a minor attraction beneath both the college game and the Harlem Globetrotters into today's massive and profitable business for the players. Having grown up with that transition, I found the book to be a pretty superficial rehash of what I already knew. I didn't enjoy that part of the book very much. But if you are under the age of 25, this material will be new to you, and you will probably find it to be interesting. You will probably rate the book higher than I did as a result.
The book's other weakness is that it is rather like a career highlight video . . . just visiting the high spots of Cousy's life. For someone who wants to know more, you'll have to read another book.