The seventh and last game of the National Basketball Association championship was over, and many in the crowd of 14,000 at the Boston Garden spilled out onto the court to slap backs, muss hair and hoist assorted heroes aloft. There were any number of Boston Celtic heroes to be borne upon the shoulders of the crowd, but who would be the first? It could have been Bill Russell, who had pulled down 35 rebounds in the Celtics' 122-103 final victory last week over the St. Louis Hawks. It could have been Frank Ramsey or Tom Heinsohn, or Sam Jones, all of whom had played tremendously. Any of these would have been a valid choice.
This crowd, however, knew who would be lifted first. It had to be "The Cooz." The Cooz had been so good against the bigger men, a marvelous hummingbird among the gangling ostriches. So they grabbed Bob Cousy, and up he went. They marched him around the arena in a giant circle. He waved his arms. He laughed. He cried. Among those applauding him the loudest were the Celtics.
Just five days earlier, when the Celtics had faltered in their drive to win their third professional basketball championship in four years, Bob Cousy had blamed himself for the showing of his team. After hitting the basket 10 times in 23 attempts in Boston's opening 140-122 victory over the Hawks, Cousy's hand had suddenly gone cold. In the next three games he sank only seven of 46 shots, and his passing was sloppy. "I'm ruining this playoff," he said after St. Louis had evened the series at two games apiece. "I'm playing flat-footed. I can't seem to get on my toes. If things don't come back I'm going to bench myself."
But in the fifth game the magic returned, and Cousy scored 21 points to lead the Celtics to a 127-102 win. Boston had a 3 to 2 advantage in the playoffs as the two teams met in Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis for the sixth game. Cousy played a good first half, getting 15 points and keeping the Celtics within two points (54-52) of the Hawks. In the third period, however, Cousy and his teammates could do nothing right, the Hawks nothing wrong. St. Louis pulled away to a 90-64 lead. Boston rallied, closing to within two points near the finish, but Sihugo Green sank a foul shot with eight seconds left and St. Louis had tied the series at 3 to 3. Cousy had not scored a point in the second half.
ONE MORE CHANCE
After the game he sat glumly in the Celtic dressing room. "Here we go," he said. "One more game. Dammit, we won more games this year during the regular season [59 of 75] than any team in the history of this league, and we still aren't champions." He thought a minute and then spoke. "Do not worry," he said slowly. "I'll be ready for that final game and we'll be ready, and St. Louis had better look out."
Cousy called it. In that last game he drove in under the basket time and again. He dribbled slowly, deftly, deliberately, waiting for the openings through which to fire his precise passes. He scored from far out and from close in. At times he even rebounded with the big men, looking like a small boy climbing a trellis. Cousy pushed his team to a 70-53 half-time lead, and there seemed no point in playing the second half. He ended with 19 points and 14 assists, Boston had its championship, the Celtics had proved again that they were the finest basketball team ever assembled, and Bob Cousy had demonstrated, for what must have been the thousandth time, that among all these fine players he was still the very finest.