2.17.2016

Dave Cowens: More Intense than KG?



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fe·ro·cious
adj.
1. Extremely savage; fierce. See Synonyms at cruel.
2. Marked by unrelenting intensity; extreme: ferocious heat.
ma·ni·a·cal also ma·ni·ac
adj.
1. Suggestive of or afflicted with insanity: a maniacal frenzy.
2. Characterized by excessive enthusiasm or excitement

There was no ordinary, garden-variety rebound for Dave Cowens. Every time he came down with a missed shot, the elbows were out, the legs were spread, and the nostrils flared. Think Bill Russell in this famous picture. Cowens took no prisoners. That sounds like a cliche. But if you even looked at him funny, the bumping started, and, if you didn't like that, the shoving and elbowing followed.

You would not get the upper hand on Dave Cowens. Pure and simple. Example: Cowens faced off against Wilt Chamberlain four times during the season after the Lakers went 69-13 on their way to the championship. The Celtics won all four games, with Cowens averaging 31 points and 19 rebounds a game in those four contests. The Lakers' run was one-and-done, if Cowens had anything to say about it.

Bob Ryan once wrote:

Dave Cowens stands 6 feet 8 1/2 inches, and even 20 years ago that was considered a bit runty for a center. Indeed, it was a raging local talk show controversy in the fall of 1970. This kid Cowens is OK, but he's not really a center. But Cowens was a center, all right, because he believed he was a center with every pore of his body. "Being a center was everything to me," he admits. "It's the best position. Simple mathematics. There are two guards and two forwards, but only one center. You're in the middle of everything."

He relished the play-within-a-play concept of dueling with the rival center as part of the grand spectacle. "That's where it starts," he explains, "with the one-on-one confrontation. It doesn't matter if it's Kareem, Wilt, Tom Boerwinkle or Dennis Awtrey. Start with you and him, and then factor in the team strategy. You live off the competition."

Nobody in the history of the NBA ever competed more ferociously, recklessly and honorably than Dave Cowens -- nobody. Anybody can expend energy with a championship in sight, so when Cowens belly-flopped after that loose ball he had knocked away from Oscar Robertson to create a crucial turnover in Game 6 of the 1974 Finals, he was better than anyone else only in that he was able to execute.

But there were few present in Asheville, N.C., on an October night in 1974, and there was absolutely nothing at stake when he spotted Fatty Taylor half the length of the court after the latter's steal in the waning first-half seconds of the first exhibition game and caught up in time to block the shot. Cowens tumbled into the basket's superstructure and broke his foot, causing him to miss the first 17 games of the season. It was at once an unmakeable and irrational play. It was, therefore, pure Dave Cowens.

If you have a chance, buy this set of Celtics' DVDs. They include a bunch of old Celtics' games, plus tons of footage from all of the eras. The game footage of Dave Cowens is captivating. You are left with the impression that KG's intensity pales in comparison.

My attitude was, "Let's see what these players are all about. I knew a Wilt Chamberlain could overwhelm me on offense", but I said, "Let's just see how hard these guys want to work." I think they got pissed at me because I wanted to work hard. They weren't used to somebody who played the way I did. I'd be running them, and after a while they'd think, "The hell with this." That's intimidation, when you're in condition and you can run somebody all the time. That, to me, is true intimidation. If every time you're down court you're right in a guy's face, if every time you're boxing him him out - I mean every time - it gets to a lot of people.

--#18

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