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JJ Redick called NBA players from the 1950s ‘plumbers and firemen.’ Bob Cousy responded.

Bob Cousy played for 13 seasons for the Celtics from 1950-63.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

After ESPN basketball analyst JJ Redick made a dismissive reference to the quality of basketball players in the NBA during the course of Bob Cousy’s career, the Celtics legend offered his response.

Redick, speaking during a debate on “First Take” in April about the best point guards in NBA history, got into an exchange with Chris Russo. Russo advocated for Cousy’s inclusion.

“He was being guarded by plumbers and firemen,” Redick retorted, reasoning that players from the pre-1980 era can’t be compared with those from afterward. Russo disagreed.

In an interview earlier this week on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson, Cousy stated his case.


“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 when asked about Redick’s comments. “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 he 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, the aforementioned, not too bad a player,” Cousy added. “Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well. But in any event, Wilt Chamberlain.”

Cousy, 93, played for a Holy Cross team that won an NCAA Tournament championship in 1947 before playing 13 seasons with the Celtics. He served as the point guard on the franchise’s first six championship teams, including each of the last five years of his career.

During the Celtics’ run, he played against (and alongside) an array of Hall of Famers.

“Still the best, in my judgment, small forward that ever played the game, a guy named Elgin Baylor,” said Cousy. “A couple of point guards that weren’t too shabby, my colleague who also had an award created [in his name], guy named Oscar Robertson, who was pound for pound the best player perhaps in the game.


“Jerry West wasn’t too shabby. The guys on our team, Sam and K.C. Jones, a guy named [John] ‘Hondo’ Havlicek wasn’t too bad. Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey, George Mikan, Bob Pettit, I could go on and on. We must have had the best firemen and plumbers on the planet at the time. And I was very proud to play with all of them.”