Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy received an important letter in the mail last week at his home in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The letter officially informed him he’ll be the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but details of when the event will take place are still not known.
The letter came from the White House. It included President Donald Trump’s signature.
The medal, known as the highest civilian honor for an American, recognizes “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In 2011, Celtics great Bill Russell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Boston will become the first NBA team to have two former players receive this prestigious honor.
The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Massachusetts provided some interesting details about how this came to pass.
The local newspaper reported:
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a friend of Cousy’s, had been lobbying for him to receive the honor and he was with Trump the day he called the Holy Cross and Celtics legend. Cousy remembers Trump telling him he should have received the honor long ago and that he would present it to him. Cousy, who will turn 91 in August, informed the president that he was thrilled, but joked that he would not accept the award posthumously.
“He laughed like heck,” Cousy recalled, “and said, ‘Well, can you stay alive until April?’ ”
Cousy said he’d try, but his presentation was delayed because Tiger Woods received the award after he won the Masters in April. Wednesday, Cousy received official notification on White House stationary in the mail at his home on Salisbury Street that he would be receiving the honor at the White House at a date to be announced.
“I don’t deserve the damn thing,” Cousy said, “but I’ll let someone else decide that. I’m not going to give it back.”
Trump is the sixth U.S. president to invite Cousy to the White House, joining Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, who invited him twice, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Johnson honored him with the Big Brother of the Year Award.
“It completes my life’s circle,” Cousy was quoted as saying, “whatever that means. I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve been so lucky.”
Bob Cousy played for the Celtics from 1950-63 and had a seven-game stint for the Cincinnati Royals in the 1969-70 season, when he coached the club. Cousy was a 13-time NBA All-Star and played a prominent role on Boston’s first dynasty. He orchestrated the offense on the team’s first six title-winning squads (1957, 1959-63). He led the NBA in assists in eight straight seasons (1953-60).
To this day, he’s considered one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
Starting in 1954, he was the National Basketball Players Association’s first president, a position he held until 1958. He strongly advocated for the organization to be established.
Early in Cousy’s pro career, he also helped play a part in integrating the NBA and improving race relations. During the 1950-51 season, Cousy was the roommate of Chuck Cooper, the first African-American draft pick to play in the NBA.