In the history and nomenclature of the NBA, the Celtics undeniably constitute a baobab, a monument, a timeless juggernaut that has seen absolute geniuses pass from the ball to the basket. Those who have played a more than immeasurable role in the construction of this odyssey remain: Bill Russell and Larry Bird without forgetting Kevin McHale and Robert Parish or others like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett… And yet, the franchise of Boston has known another very great that history has always shed little light and who nonetheless remains a real sphinx that the youngest have a duty to know. This is the ” mister more ” of the Celtics of the 70s, period during which, Boston still garnered two league titles. We tell you everything …
Dave Cowens, forgotten by history,
The Kentucky native who will be blowing his 74th birthday on October 25th has a host of reasons to hold accountable the history of the NBA in general and that of the Celtics greens in particular as they both took a nasty pleasure in not to weave him the laurels that his unstoppable talent and his flashy career legitimately deserved. For some in particular those who know the ball to the basket, informed libraries of the NBA, Dave Cowens is undoubtedly the second best position 5 in the history of the Massachusetts franchise, behind Bill Russell and ahead of Robert Parish. And yet, few today can claim to tell with force-convictions what was the course of the man… Pivot left-handed, the one who was nicknamed “Big Red”, because of his red hair was a player that was taken pleasure to see evolve on the floors. For the record, it is also Bill Russell who in 1970 recommended him as the 4th choice of the Draft to the leaders of the C’s.
It will therefore take very little time after his co-option to impress basketball fans. In 1971, he was voted Co-Rookie of the Year along with Geoff Petrie with averages of 17 points, 15 rebounds and 3 assists. For 10 years, he will have in his own way and this ostensibly carried at arm’s length Boston towards convincing successes which will spread oil.
The Cowens odyssey with the …
It is 1973 and for his third season in the league, Dave Cowens takes down the grail and reaches the firmament of the Most Valuable Players. Thanks to his statistics of 20.5 points, 16.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, the choice on ” Big Red ” was obvious. Guide, reference, scout, leader of the Celtics, he leads his team to a sumptuous record of 68 wins and 14 defeats: to this day remains the best record in the history of the franchise!
However, we will have to wait another year before the NBA title is won! After a Game 7 torn away from the Bucks of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Roberston, a fiercely contested epic duel, Cowens distinguished himself with a total of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists. However, it is John Havlicek who is elected MVP of the Finals. Could it be otherwise when we know that in these finals, aside from the scoring, the left-handed pivot had the imperative mission of containing the one who at the time was considered to be the best player on the planet, a certain Kareem? Abdul-Jabbar. However, Dave Cowens’ averages during these Finals are nonetheless eloquent and decisive: 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 interceptions (against 26.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.9 interceptions for John Havlicek).
Two years later, Boston once again found the Finals against the Phoenix of Paul Westphal and Alvan Adams this time around. This series will remain in the legend and will make a place of choice in the memorial game of the League with in particular an anthology Game 5 still considered by many today as the greatest match in the history of the play-offs. That day, in front of their home crowd and after three overtime, the Celtics won 128-126 before winning the title in Game 6. AMAZING!
Once again the title of MVP of the Finals will escape the unsinkable redhead. With 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 interceptions on average, it is Jo Jo White who will seize the precious sesame but the series of Dave Cowens is once again gigantic: 20.5 points, 16.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 interception per game, including a triple-double in Game 1 (25 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists)! RESPECT.
What about the other highlights of a lively journey?
Even if the story does not emphasize it as it should have deserved, in terms of numbers, Dave Cowens remains to date alongside Kevin Garnett, Scottie Pippen, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the five players to have been leader of his team in all statistical categories. Piece chosen for the 1977-1978 season where the eight-time All-Star made 18.6 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 interceptions and 0.9 against per game.
In 1980, after a last year as a player-coach like Bill Russell before him, Cowens announced his retirement from sports, but that only lasted a few months. Two years later, we find him on the Milwaukee side where he will make 40 appearances for 8.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game before hanging up permanently. His end of his career was marked by numerous injuries, in particular to the knee, ankle, foot … Accumulation of physical problems which got the better of his longevity and which if they had not existed would certainly have increased tenfold his aura and him would have awarded more satisfécit than it has today.
The fact remains that 15 years later, the two-time NBA champion reappeared on a bench at the head of one of the most beautiful teams of the mid-90s: the Hornets. With Glen Rice, Vlade Divac, Anthony Mason and Dell Curry in its ranks, Charlotte achieved two magnificent seasons with more than 50 victories during the 1996-1997 season and then put it back in the following season. However, the start of the campaign missed the third year cost his position at DC which nevertheless rebounded at Golden State between 2000 and 2002 without the results being better (25 wins in 105 games). We will see “Big Red” later in the WNBA in 2006, in this case at the Chicago Sky, but it will not be much better in terms of collective results.
Meanwhile, the MVP of the All-Star Game 1973 (15 points, 13 rebounds) entered the Hall of Fame. It was in 1991 in the company of Tiny Archibald another monument of the Celtics. Since Archibald is mentioned, it is an axiom that he too has marked with an indelible seal his time in Boston but a bit like Cowens, he has always been relegated to second or even third place among the players who have raised the Celtics to the so restricted pinnacle of the most memorable franchises in the NBA behind the most famous like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, John Havlicek and others Paul Pierce. Evidenced by their presence in the Top 50 and then Top 76 of the best players in the history of the league.
An all-around player, his team’s ‘franchise player’ par excellence during the 1970s, a remarkable teammate and irrigator leader, Cowens was a player ahead of his time and whom the Celtics can boast of having had in their midst.