Hall of Fame Boston Celtics point guard and broadcaster Bob Cousy received the nation's highest civilian honor at the White House on Thursday afternoon in recognition of his accomplishments on the parquet and in society.
President Donald Trump presented the Worcester resident with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the Oval Office at 4:30 p.m., the White House said. The award is given by the president to "individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
Congratulations to @celtics #legend Bob Cousy ☘️🏀 who was just presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the @WhiteHouse by @realDonaldTrump 🎖️ [AP Photo/Alex Brandon] https://t.co/nz65KiYdGf #Boston #Celtics #POTUS pic.twitter.com/5E1lxw22YE— Boston 25 News (@boston25) August 22, 2019
A New York native, Cousy came to Massachusetts in the 1940s to attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. He won a national championship with the Crusaders and went on to play for the Boston Celtics from 1950 until his retirement after beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1963 NBA Finals.
As a player in the 1950s, Cousy was known for standing up for his African-American teammates and during the 1950-51 season, Cousy roomed with Chuck Cooper, the first African-American player drafted into the NBA. He also helped form the NBA Players Association and has worked for decades with the Big Brothers program.
On the Celtics Talk podcast with A. Sherrod Blakely from NBC Sports Boston, Cousy said he views the Presidential Medal of Freedom as a special accomplishment "because it doesn't fall necessarily within the realm of sports."
"I have taken the opportunities I've had, on a Mickey Mouse level, over the years to do what I've been able to do in the areas of civil rights and social justice and it's something I feel strongly about," he said.
After his playing career, Cousy went into coaching, including at Boston College. He also became a broadcaster of Celtics gams during the team's 1980s dynasty.
"I've heard a lot of jocks or politicians over the years, when they're asked these questions, say, 'I'm the luckiest son of a gun.' Well, I'll claim that title," Cousy told Blakely. "I can't imagine my good fortune during a series of events in my life could have happened any better."
Cousy told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette earlier this week that he's happy to be the first Worcester resident to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "Hopefully, that will be meaningful to the city and I'll be the third Holy Cross guy," he said.
He is also the fourth NBA player to receive the honor, joining Celtics teammate Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"This is the cherry on top of the sundae," Cousy said on the NBC Sports podcast. "It completes, for me, a kind of life circle. I don't have to chase the bouncing ball anymore. There is nothing in terms of acknowledgments that I dream about or think about."
Now 91, Cousy still lives in Worcester and has remained active in civic life during his retirement. In 2006, he joined other Celtics greats as Gov. Mitt Romney signed a bill naming basketball the official state sport.
"Come on up here, we're between innings here, Cooz," Romney said to Cousy after signing the law, the News Service reported at the time. "I mean halves."
In Oct. 2012, during his re-election campaign, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown picked up an assist in the form of an endorsement from Cousy. Two years later, Cousy endorsed a fellow former pro baller when he threw his support behind Maura Healey in her primary campaign against Warren Tolman.
This legislative session, Rep. Angelo Scaccia refiled a bill (H 3127) that would name an approach ramp to I-93 near the TD Garden "as Bob Cousy Way, in honor of Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, known as 'Mr. Basketball,' for his role in saving the sport of professional basketball by transforming the game into to one of crowd appeal."
The bill is before the Transportation Committee and has not been scheduled for a hearing.
State House News Service