The Celtics were playing Houston in a game on Feb. 25, 1976. On two different occasions, Rockets guard Mike Newlin stepped in front of Cowens and flopped worse than "The Chevy Chase Show," drawing charge calls against Cowens.
Cowens panned Newlin's act. He had always maintained that all players should adhere to an unwritten code of conduct, one that Newlin had blatantly violated. The transgression required retaliation.
"I said to myself, `OK, I have to put an end to this,' " Cowens says. "I foul out enough without having this crap."
As Newlin trotted up court on a Houston possession shortly after the second foul, Cowens charged at him and leveled him with two high forearms. He turned toward referee Bill Jones and bellowed, "Now that's a foul."
Critics skewered Cowens for the vicious blow. In defense, he penned a letter to the Boston Globe that read more like a college thesis, in which he reeled off five reasons why the "fraudulent, deceiving and flagrant acts of pretending to be fouled when little or no contact is made is just as outrageously unsportsmanlike as knocking a player to the floor."
"Pretending," Cowens wrote, "makes players think they can achieve their goal without putting in the work or effort that it takes to develop any skill or talent. . . . It distracts anyone who attends the game to study fundamental basketball skills and traits of the game.
"If this practice continues unrestrained or the actor is allowed to utilize this fraudulent exercise successfully, it will gradually become an accepted strategy and will be taught to kids more enthusiastically by their coaches."