Mrs. Cooty Brown could contain herself no longer. Last week, in letters home to Philadelphia, she added after each signature: "Wife of a Shooting Star." Cooty Brown himself was embarrassed. He could not sleep and he could not eat. He lost so much weight that his wife sent him out for a new pair of trousers, because "I just love him best in those nice, tapered pants, and the ones he has now have gotten so big on him that they look funny."
Cooty's coach watched him play with astonishment. "I thought I was beginning to see things," Alex Hannum said. "So finally, when he did one more fantastic thing, I turned to Gary Phillips next to me on the bench and I said, 'Gary, am I wrong? Has he ever done that before?' And Gary just shook his head, and said, 'No, Alex. I'm sure he's never done that before. I've played with him and I've guarded him, and I've never seen him do that before.' And then he did something else, so we just sat there and shook our heads some more."
The opposition was at least as amazed. "Those were unbelievable shots," St. Louis Coach Richie Guerin said after Cooty scored 37 against the Hawks. "Those were the kind of shots we want opposing players to take. But they just kept going in. Unbelievable."
Cooty did splurge on a new convertible, but that was mere coincidence—the old family car had 76,000 miles on it. Then he kept turning the air conditioning on when he meant the defroster, and after one game he drove off absentmindedly into the left-hand lane. And he talked—in spurts, rat-a-tat-tat, the way he always has done when he is most nervous. He talked little, however, about his own feats. "He really doesn't enjoy talking about them," his wife said. "He doesn't like people to make a fuss over him any time, and now he just won't let himself be indulged by it all. But I love to talk about it. I'm just gloating. I knew all along he could do this."
He had by now brought his average up to 24.7, sixth best in the league, good for anyone but amazing because this was little Cooty Brown. Little Cooty is really little Guy Rodgers of the NBA's San Francisco Warriors and Guy Rodgers has been a passer—good field, no hit—ever since he grew up in North Philadelphia together with, among other celebrities-to-be, Comedian Bill Cosby. Rodgers, Cosby and their friends used to toss off singsong nonsense rhymes about the fictitious Mr. Brown, e.g., "Cooty Brown/Put on his hat/And headed down."
Eventually Cosby decided that Rodgers was Cooty Brown. He even had him paged in a hotel that way once. Rodgers did not take the page. He enjoys a gag, but underneath, always, he has been an intensely dedicated man. He is so caught up in basketball competition that sleepless nights and skipped meals are routine with him. There have just been more of them since he went on his scoring spree three weeks ago. Once, years ago, he scored 33 points. And now, suddenly, he was averaging 36 over an eight-game bust-out. In his seven previous NBA seasons—time spent almost exclusively as a willing caddie for Wilt Chamberlain—Rodgers averaged 11.9. He had never been a good shot; his .380 career shooting percentage is third worst in the league among regular backcourtmen.
But Rodgers could always pass. The night his Temple teammate Hal Lear scored 48 points, then a record, in the NCAA tournament, Rodgers, a sophomore, had 20 assists. Even then he was frequently compared to Bob Cousy. He went on to lead the NBA in assists one year, and most other times was second only to Oscar Robertson. He is neck and neck for the assist lead with Robertson this year; ignored in all this scoring whoopdedo is the fact that his whole game has never been better. "Guy is the best dribbler, the best playmaker and the best passer in the game," Hannum says. "And this includes Oscar." "He's the toughest guy in the league to take the ball away from," adds Boston's K. C. Jones, who has made a career of taking the ball away.
More than anything, though, Rodgers—who resembles Soupy Sales—is just plain fun to watch, scooting all over the court, weaving in and out of the big men. At least half a dozen times a game he throws over-the-shoulder or behind-the-back passes, and in every game there is some new spontaneous move that is even more exciting. He is always a crowd favorite anyway, for besides everything else he is the smallest or next to the smallest player in the NBA. Both he and John Egan are generously listed at 6 feet, but each swears that the other is taller.
The Amazing, Never-to-be-forgotten, True-to-life Scoring Spree of Guy William Rodgers came without warning. There it was, like a butterfly, suddenly out and winging. First came 39, then 21, 47, 23, 39, 46 and back-to-back 37s before he finally cooled off with 16, 21 and 24. During the binge Rodgers hit at .473 and took 30 shots a game—more than double what he had allowed himself in the previous seven years. But the kind of shots were even more interesting.
For example, just examine the second quarter of the game against New York when he hit for 46. The play-by-play summary of Guy's array of baskets was forced to go far beyond the usual prosaic account: " Rodgers jumper from left corner from the tap... Rodgers backhand two-hand shot from just left of bucket banked in... Rodgers jumper from the circle... Rodgers 3 ft. floater from mid-air from mid-lane... Rodgers jumper from the circle... Rodgers 6 ft. jumper from left lane though closely guarded... Rodgers lay-in of a rebound from the middle... Rodgers underhand flip layup from the right side... Rodgers jumper from the circle."