C's legend Bob Cousy burns JJ Redick over 'plumbers and firemen' slight

JJ Redick Bob Cousy

When JJ Redick casually dismissed Bob Cousy's accomplishments last month on ESPN's "First Take," he probably didn't expect the Basketball Hall of Famer himself to fire back.

Redick, who has launched a second career as an ESPN analyst after 15 seasons in the NBA, got into it with Chris "Mad Dog" Russo back on April 20 about whether Chris Paul was a better point guard than Cousy.

While Russo referenced some of Cousy's incredible numbers -- including 29 assists in one game -- Redick retorted that the Cooz played against far inferior competition in the 1950s and early 1960s.

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"He was being guarded by plumbers and firemen," Redick joked.

There's some truth to Redick's comments: The level of competition in the NBA has increased dramatically over the last 50 to 60 years, and many players in Cousy's era actually did work second jobs. (Celtics icon Tommy Heinsohn sold life insurance, for example.)

But if you're Cousy, you'd probably take exception to Redick's remarks. Which is exactly what happened when the 93-year-old Celtics legend went on SiriusXM NBA radio this week.

"People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility," Cousy said. "So when you respond to something like this, you play into their hands. 

"I won’t do that, but I will defend the firemen and the plumbers that (Redick) referenced. And I’ll just give you a few of the names of these firemen that I played with and against during those years. How about Bill Russell? ... Not too bad a player. Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well."


Cousy then went on to list several other Hall of Famers who starred during his era, from Elgin Baylor to Oscar Robertson to Jerry West to his Celtics teammates, Heinsohn and John Havlicek.

"We must have had the best firemen and plumbers on the planet," Cousy said.

The debate about how stars of past eras stack up to players in the modern NBA will never go away, and it's true that today's stars are more athletic and more talented in many ways.

But the best way to measure success is to compare a player to those he played against, and in that regard, Cousy certainly stands out: He led the NBA in assists in eight consecutive seasons from 1953 to 1960 while earning 13 All-Star nods, 10 First-Team All-NBA appearances and six NBA titles.