Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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(Original Caption) Bob Cousy (14) of the Boston Celtics moves into score through Syracuse Men, Red Rocha (left) and Paul Seymour (5), in the second quarter of the playoffs game at the Boston Arena. The Syracuse Nationals scored a 110-84 victory to capture the NBA Eastern Division honors and go into the finals with the Western Division winner, which is to be decided between Fort Wayne and Minneapolis. /

31. Bob Cousy

  • Resume: 14 seasons, 6 NBA championships, 1 regular season MVP Award, 12-time All-NBA selection, 13-time NBA All-Star, 2-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 8-time NBA leader in assists, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 18.4 PPG, 7.5 APG, 5.2 RPG, .375/—/.803 shooting splits, 19.8 career PER, 91.1 win shares

Technically speaking, Cooz only played 13 seasons before appearing in seven games as the head coach of the Cincinnati Royals in an effort to boost ticket sales, which kind of hurts his stat line here. But in spite of his poor field goal percentage, “The Houdini of the Hardwood” earned his nickname with ball-handling and passing skills that were years ahead of his time.

For Cousy, behind-the-back passes and dribbling between the legs weren’t just gimmicks used to entice the crowd at Harlem Globetrotter games; they were a means to confuse defenders and effectively move the ball where it needed to be. The league didn’t keep track of steals back then, but there’s a good chance he would’ve regularly finished in the top five for that category just like he did for scoring and assists.

It’s easy to say the Cooz’s career was made by the arrival of Bill Russell, but the truth is Cousy was equally successful before and after Russell took the league by storm. It’s true, Cousy didn’t win a single one of his six titles until Russell came along, but every NBA championship team needs an alpha dog. Cousy was just the one who led the offense as the floor general.

By bringing entertainment and a winning culture to his teams, Cousy revolutionized the point guard position and the sport in general. He was a pioneer, and his all-around excellence earned him another fitting nickname, “Mr. Basketball.” Cousy was basically a Steve Nash-John Stockton hybrid, except he was the original.