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What did J.J. Redick say about Bob Cousy that upset Jerry West so much?

It’s an age old debate: Could the older generation of NBA players take on the new? The answer may not be clear, but the heat is after Redick’s comments.

Lakers legend Jerry West isn't about J.J. Redick's 'disrespect'
Focus On SportFocus on Sport via Getty Images

If there is one debate that is eternal regardless of what sport we’re talking about, it’s the notion of whether or not players from yesteryear could hold up against players of today. With the NBA being no differnt, it’s no surprise that one modern player got on the wrong side of a legend.

What did J.J. Redick say about Bob Cousy?

Though J.J. Redick has become widely popular due to his work on television as an NBA analyst on ESPN’s “First Take”, it would appear that he crossed a line with one specific comment in recent days. Speaking about Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, Redick declared that, “He was being guarded by plumbers and firemen.” Almost immediately, Redick was challenged by fellow panelist, Chris Russo, who proceeded to enter into a debate with the former No. 11 overall pick about Cousy relative to present day All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Now here’s the thing, while Redick’s comments are factually true, like many stats and facts, they only tell half of the story. Cousy’s career began in 1950, an era during which it was quite common for players to supplement their earnings from the NBA by taking on jobs during the offseason. Indeed, before he played for the Celtics, Cousy was a gas station manager as well as a driving instructor according to NBAcom. In this regard, one could say that Redick wasn’t wrong. On the other hand, it’s stands to reason that any player in any era is on average only as good as what’s available at the time, i.e., the training facilities and methods, coaching and of course the opposition. In Cousy’s era, players didn’t have access to, nor did they have the time for the extensive skills development and athletic training that they have today.

Jerry West fires shots at J.J. Redick

While Redick’s comments are in no way original, when it comes to the debate about who is better than who depending on the era, it’s clear they were not well received by one former NBA great. Indeed, Lakers icon and NBA legend Jerry West was not at all pleased with what Redick had to say and made that known in a recent interview. Speaking about Redick’s implication that players of Cousy’s generation - himself included - West said he felt “disrespected” before questioning Redick’s own career. “Tell me what his career looked like,” West said. “What did he do that determined games? He averaged 12 points a game in the league.”

J.J. Redick or Jerry West, who’s right?

While it’s fairly obvious that such a debate has no end, there is one thing that should be considered for the sake of clarity. In the era that Cousy and West played, not only were there fundamental differences such as an absence of a shot clock or no three-point line, but the rules themselves were different. That’s before we even take a look at the resources that are available to players today. If we stay on the surface then one could easily say Cousy scored more than Redick, on the other is it harder to score today?

No matter how you cut it, both have a point. To be clear, Cousy played in a significantly smaller league where players simply couldn’t be as dedicated to the sport as they are today. Redick on the other hand - it has to be said - was not nearly has important to the roster he played on as Cousy. That’s all to say, that while one could easily accuse West of being the bitter old man, who can’t accept the present, one could just as easily tell Redick that he should respect his elders.


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