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Publisher's Summary

Out of the greatest dynasty in American professional sports history, an intimate story of race, mortality, and regret.

About to turn 90, Bob Cousy, the Hall of Fame Boston Celtics captain who led the team to its first six championships on an unparalleled run, has much to look back on in contentment. But he has one last piece of unfinished business. The last pass he hopes to throw is to close the circle with his great partner on those Celtic teams, fellow Hall of Famer Bill Russell, now 84. 

These teammates were basketball's Ruth and Gehrig, and Cooz, as everyone calls him, was famously ahead of his time as an NBA player in terms of race and civil rights. But as the decades passed, Cousy blamed himself for not having done enough, for not having understood the depth of prejudice Russell faced as an African American star in a city with a fraught history regarding race. Cousy wishes he had defended Russell publicly and that he had told him privately that he had his back. At this late hour, he confided to acclaimed historian Gary Pomerantz over the course of many interviews that he would like to make amends.

At the heart of the story The Last Pass tells is the relationship between these two iconic athletes. The audiobook is also in a way Bob Cousy's last testament on his complex and fascinating life. As a sports story alone, it has few parallels: A poor kid whose immigrant French parents suffered a dysfunctional marriage, the young Cousy escaped to the New York City playgrounds, where he became an urban legend known as the Houdini of the Hardwood. The legend exploded nationally in 1950, his first year as a Celtic: He would be an All-Star all 13 of his NBA seasons.  

But even as Cousy's on-court imagination and daring brought new attention to the pro game, the Celtics struggled until Coach Red Auerbach landed Russell in 1956. Cooz and Russ fit beautifully together on the court, and the Celtics dynasty was born.  

To Boston's white sportswriters, it was Cousy's team, not Russell's, and as the civil rights movement took flight and Russell became more publicly involved in it, there were some ugly repercussions in the community, more hurtful to Russell than Cousy feels he understood at the time.

The Last Pass situates the Celtics dynasty against the full dramatic canvas of American life in the '50s and '60s. It is an enthralling portrait of the heart of this legendary team that throws open a window onto the wider world at a time of wrenching social change. Ultimately, it is about the legacy of a life: what matters to us in the end, long after the arena lights have been turned off and we are alone with our memories.

©2018 Gary M. Pomerantz (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“The first Gary Pomerantz book I read was his biography of Wilt Chamberlain, which I thought was magnificent. Then I read Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, which I haven't stopped thinking about. Now I've lost myself in The Last Pass. The danger with Gary Pomerantz is that you'll become an addict.” (Malcolm Gladwell)

“An important statement about America’s social consciousness a half-century ago, and our own today. But it is also a dual biography of the two men who dominated Boston sports at a time when the Red Sox were pitiful, the Bruins even worse and the Patriots unworthy of discussion in polite company." (David Shribman, The Wall Street Journal)

“A master class. Students of NBA history are in awe these days, marveling at the depth of Gary Pomerantz’s new book.... [Pomerantz] is a master of exquisite detail. He has produced two of the finest sports books ever written, on Wilt Chamberlain (Wilt, 1962) and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynasty (Their Life’s Work). For fans of the Warriors, trying to become the first team since those Celtics to reach five straight Finals, there is invaluable perspective on how a great team sustains its brilliance.” (San Francisco Chronicle

What members say

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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Pomerantz achieves Triple Double with his research, writing and narration.

My Dad said Cousy was his all time favorite and now I know why. Celtics come alive. Light the cigar for Gary M. He wrote a winner and I hope to soon interview author on The Craig Silverman Show.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • LSmith
  • Upstate New York
  • 12-18-18

Fantastic book

Some consider the Boston Celtics of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when the team won 11 championships in 13 seasons, to be the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports. The two players who were most important to these Celtics teams were Bob Cousy and Bill Russell. This excellent book focuses on Cousy’s life, but the driving theme is the relationship between these two iconic Celtics, especially Cousy’s self-questioning about whether he truly had done enough to help his teammate deal with the racism Russell faced in those times.


The book starts with the thoughts of Cousy, now over 90 years old, expressing regrets over how he handled his relationship with Russell. From there, Pomerantz smoothly tells the story of Bob Cousy, from his childhood in which his father was abused by his mother, his difficulty with speaking English (his first language was French) and to his basketball career.  He achieved success at Holy Cross in college before his time in Boston, where he was the flashy point guard for the first six of the Celtics 11 titles, in which Russell was a key player for all of them.


While the book paints a terrific picture of NBA basketball, the Celtics and Cousy’s brilliance on the court, those are not what make this book one that must be read. The reader will learn about not only Cousy the player and Cousy the man, but also about his family and friendships as well. His beloved wife Missy passed away after more than fifty years of marriage. He maintained friendships with many teammates throughout the years, including with coach Red Auerbach.  But he always had troubling thoughts about Russell and whether he did enough for not only the man, but for the man’s cause and rights.


The book will not answer those questions for either Cousy or the reader, but with the current state of racial issues in the country, it makes sense to show that there are still many unanswered questions.  Yes, this is a biography of a basketball legend – but it is also so much more.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Hebern
  • Clinton, NC, United States
  • 11-19-18

A very good biography of Cousy

It is a biography of Bob Cousy. Cousy was the first of the flashy point guards in the NBA. When he retired he was the second leading scorer in NBA history. He’s gone way down that list since, but it shows the impact he had on the league at the time. He teamed with Bill Russell to create the Celtic Dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a period that has always interested me because I was an avid reader of sports books growing up and our school’s library didn’t have new books. The sports books I read were from this era.

This is a sports book, but it also examines race and in particular how race played a role in the treatment of Bill Russell at the time. When the greatest basketball player of all-time is debated few make the case for Russell. But, if you are naming the greatest basketball champion of all-time, few could argue against the case for Russell.

The book explores the differences in the way the Boston Celtics treated race and the way the city of Boston treated race. The Celtics were the first NBA team to draft a black player, the first NBA team to start 5 black players and the first NBA team to hire a black coach. The city of Boston was not nearly as open minded during the period on race. Russell in particular was not treated well because he was not one to quietly accept the discrimination and unfair treatment.

It is undisputed that Cousy never had a racist bone in his body, but as he aged he felt guilt that he didn’t do more to help the black players on the team, Russell in particular. The title of the book comes from a 90 year old Cousy reaching out to Russell to put those feelings of guilt into words.

The author does an ok job of reading his own book, but it would have been slightly better if a pro had been hired for the job.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 11-06-18

Great Premise, Not Quite Fulfilled in Good Book

I picked this one up because I read a great excerpt of it in Time. As Pomerantz describes it, this is basketball great Bob Cousy doing something remarkable, let alone for a 91-year-old who’s lived most of his life as a celebrity: reflecting on his own role in race as it played out in his lifetime.

I don’t regret picking up the whole book, but I do feel marginally misled by that excerpt. This book does deal with Cousy as he reflects on his friendship with Bill Russell; the two of them were the twin stars – Russell clearly the greater one – of the first NBA dynasty, one electric and one rock steady, one white and one black. It deals with that friendship, or strange lack thereof, in a beautifully written opening section, and then somewhat less satisfying at the end.

In between this is a different book altogether, also a good one, but not quite what I’d been sold on.

The heart of this is a biography of Cousy, and it’s certainly well done. Pomerantz has great admiration for the man, and he certainly persuades me to share it. Cousy himself felt like an immigrant, felt like a child of the ghetto who experienced a fraction of the native distrust that so haunted Russell.

I had no idea Cousy was, essentially, French, that he was the child of two French immigrants and that English was his second language. (I got to thinking that, alongside Tony Parker and, maybe someday, Frank Nkitlina, the French have a lot to boast about in their point guards.) I’d taken his name for Irish and that, of course, would have made him royalty in Boston. Instead, he could never quite overcome a combination of accent and speech impediment, and he could never quite be home in the world of celebrity athlete that he had a real hand in creating.

Pomerantz has a number of fine passages where he gives a sense of what it must have been like to watch Cousy play in his early days. He was, after George Mikan, the second inventor of modern play. And, where Mikan brought a combination of low-post precision and brute size, Cousy brought flair and creativity. Cousy is the forerunner of the basketball wizard – the Houdini of the hardwood. I think his Youtube clips probably don’t show the great panache of his original moves. Next to the greats of today, to Step Curry to take the exemplar, he must seem drab. In context, though, as Pomerantz describes it, he was a revolution.

This does begin to drag a little in the second half. Pomerantz has some great material, but he recycles the best of it. I think, in the end, the book would have been just as effective, and a little sharper, if it were about 20 percent shorter.

But the culmination here is the profile of Cousy in his waning years. Pomerantz lets us see him as a man unafraid to ask himself a difficult question: how was it possible he could have enjoyed such spectacular on-court chemistry with Russell yet not known the extent of what he endured as an African-American in Boston. (In one harrowing scene – one we get at least three times – vandals broke into Russell’s home, painted racist graffiti, and defecated in his bed.) Cousy seems to have been well ahead of most of his contemporaries when it came to race – he roomed with the Celtics first black player, and he served as a Big Brother to a handful of adolescent African-American boys – so he could easily plead his own documented good works. Instead, he probes his conscience for times he failed to ask the necessary question, for times he might have been even braver than he was and put his hard-earned reputation at risk.

And, while there is a lot to chew on in those culminating reflections, the somewhat disappointing truth is that they’re unresolved. Outside of a powerful scene in which Cousy, in a live television interview, began crying when asked about his relationship with Russell (another scene repeated multiple times) Pomerantz isn’t able to show us too much detail in Cousy’s reflections. I’m persuaded to admire the basketball player, admire the dignified way he’s aging in a world slowly forgetting the magnitude of his innovations, but I don’t quite have a sense of how I should admire him.

Cousy, that is, deserves admiration for his intention to ask himself deep questions at a time most of his contemporaries have faded or died. Pomerantz deserves credit for laying out those intentions as clearly as he does (and for the loving and attentive biography he works around that project). In the end, though, we see only the first half of the play – the pass as it’s leaving the hands of thoughtful man Cousy and careful writer Pomerantz. Good as this is, I’d like to see the second half of the play, the part where we see the pass get caught, the part where we see the reconciliation with Russell. And that, I’m afraid – both in life and in this otherwise fine book – we do not get to see.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig
  • 01-13-19

Pomerantz achieves Triple Double with his research, writing and narration.

My Dad said Cousy was his all time favorite and now I know why. Celtics come alive. Light the cigar for Gary M. He wrote a winner and I hope to soon interview author on The Craig Silverman Show.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • LSmith
  • Upstate New York
  • 12-18-18

Fantastic book

Some consider the Boston Celtics of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when the team won 11 championships in 13 seasons, to be the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports. The two players who were most important to these Celtics teams were Bob Cousy and Bill Russell. This excellent book focuses on Cousy’s life, but the driving theme is the relationship between these two iconic Celtics, especially Cousy’s self-questioning about whether he truly had done enough to help his teammate deal with the racism Russell faced in those times.


The book starts with the thoughts of Cousy, now over 90 years old, expressing regrets over how he handled his relationship with Russell. From there, Pomerantz smoothly tells the story of Bob Cousy, from his childhood in which his father was abused by his mother, his difficulty with speaking English (his first language was French) and to his basketball career.  He achieved success at Holy Cross in college before his time in Boston, where he was the flashy point guard for the first six of the Celtics 11 titles, in which Russell was a key player for all of them.


While the book paints a terrific picture of NBA basketball, the Celtics and Cousy’s brilliance on the court, those are not what make this book one that must be read. The reader will learn about not only Cousy the player and Cousy the man, but also about his family and friendships as well. His beloved wife Missy passed away after more than fifty years of marriage. He maintained friendships with many teammates throughout the years, including with coach Red Auerbach.  But he always had troubling thoughts about Russell and whether he did enough for not only the man, but for the man’s cause and rights.


The book will not answer those questions for either Cousy or the reader, but with the current state of racial issues in the country, it makes sense to show that there are still many unanswered questions.  Yes, this is a biography of a basketball legend – but it is also so much more.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Hebern
  • Clinton, NC, United States
  • 11-19-18

A very good biography of Cousy

It is a biography of Bob Cousy. Cousy was the first of the flashy point guards in the NBA. When he retired he was the second leading scorer in NBA history. He’s gone way down that list since, but it shows the impact he had on the league at the time. He teamed with Bill Russell to create the Celtic Dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a period that has always interested me because I was an avid reader of sports books growing up and our school’s library didn’t have new books. The sports books I read were from this era.

This is a sports book, but it also examines race and in particular how race played a role in the treatment of Bill Russell at the time. When the greatest basketball player of all-time is debated few make the case for Russell. But, if you are naming the greatest basketball champion of all-time, few could argue against the case for Russell.

The book explores the differences in the way the Boston Celtics treated race and the way the city of Boston treated race. The Celtics were the first NBA team to draft a black player, the first NBA team to start 5 black players and the first NBA team to hire a black coach. The city of Boston was not nearly as open minded during the period on race. Russell in particular was not treated well because he was not one to quietly accept the discrimination and unfair treatment.

It is undisputed that Cousy never had a racist bone in his body, but as he aged he felt guilt that he didn’t do more to help the black players on the team, Russell in particular. The title of the book comes from a 90 year old Cousy reaching out to Russell to put those feelings of guilt into words.

The author does an ok job of reading his own book, but it would have been slightly better if a pro had been hired for the job.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 11-06-18

Great Premise, Not Quite Fulfilled in Good Book

I picked this one up because I read a great excerpt of it in Time. As Pomerantz describes it, this is basketball great Bob Cousy doing something remarkable, let alone for a 91-year-old who’s lived most of his life as a celebrity: reflecting on his own role in race as it played out in his lifetime.

I don’t regret picking up the whole book, but I do feel marginally misled by that excerpt. This book does deal with Cousy as he reflects on his friendship with Bill Russell; the two of them were the twin stars – Russell clearly the greater one – of the first NBA dynasty, one electric and one rock steady, one white and one black. It deals with that friendship, or strange lack thereof, in a beautifully written opening section, and then somewhat less satisfying at the end.

In between this is a different book altogether, also a good one, but not quite what I’d been sold on.

The heart of this is a biography of Cousy, and it’s certainly well done. Pomerantz has great admiration for the man, and he certainly persuades me to share it. Cousy himself felt like an immigrant, felt like a child of the ghetto who experienced a fraction of the native distrust that so haunted Russell.

I had no idea Cousy was, essentially, French, that he was the child of two French immigrants and that English was his second language. (I got to thinking that, alongside Tony Parker and, maybe someday, Frank Nkitlina, the French have a lot to boast about in their point guards.) I’d taken his name for Irish and that, of course, would have made him royalty in Boston. Instead, he could never quite overcome a combination of accent and speech impediment, and he could never quite be home in the world of celebrity athlete that he had a real hand in creating.

Pomerantz has a number of fine passages where he gives a sense of what it must have been like to watch Cousy play in his early days. He was, after George Mikan, the second inventor of modern play. And, where Mikan brought a combination of low-post precision and brute size, Cousy brought flair and creativity. Cousy is the forerunner of the basketball wizard – the Houdini of the hardwood. I think his Youtube clips probably don’t show the great panache of his original moves. Next to the greats of today, to Step Curry to take the exemplar, he must seem drab. In context, though, as Pomerantz describes it, he was a revolution.

This does begin to drag a little in the second half. Pomerantz has some great material, but he recycles the best of it. I think, in the end, the book would have been just as effective, and a little sharper, if it were about 20 percent shorter.

But the culmination here is the profile of Cousy in his waning years. Pomerantz lets us see him as a man unafraid to ask himself a difficult question: how was it possible he could have enjoyed such spectacular on-court chemistry with Russell yet not known the extent of what he endured as an African-American in Boston. (In one harrowing scene – one we get at least three times – vandals broke into Russell’s home, painted racist graffiti, and defecated in his bed.) Cousy seems to have been well ahead of most of his contemporaries when it came to race – he roomed with the Celtics first black player, and he served as a Big Brother to a handful of adolescent African-American boys – so he could easily plead his own documented good works. Instead, he probes his conscience for times he failed to ask the necessary question, for times he might have been even braver than he was and put his hard-earned reputation at risk.

And, while there is a lot to chew on in those culminating reflections, the somewhat disappointing truth is that they’re unresolved. Outside of a powerful scene in which Cousy, in a live television interview, began crying when asked about his relationship with Russell (another scene repeated multiple times) Pomerantz isn’t able to show us too much detail in Cousy’s reflections. I’m persuaded to admire the basketball player, admire the dignified way he’s aging in a world slowly forgetting the magnitude of his innovations, but I don’t quite have a sense of how I should admire him.

Cousy, that is, deserves admiration for his intention to ask himself deep questions at a time most of his contemporaries have faded or died. Pomerantz deserves credit for laying out those intentions as clearly as he does (and for the loving and attentive biography he works around that project). In the end, though, we see only the first half of the play – the pass as it’s leaving the hands of thoughtful man Cousy and careful writer Pomerantz. Good as this is, I’d like to see the second half of the play, the part where we see the pass get caught, the part where we see the reconciliation with Russell. And that, I’m afraid – both in life and in this otherwise fine book – we do not get to see.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig
  • 01-13-19

Pomerantz achieves Triple Double with his research, writing and narration.

My Dad said Cousy was his all time favorite and now I know why. Celtics come alive. Light the cigar for Gary M. He wrote a winner and I hope to soon interview author on The Craig Silverman Show.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • LSmith
  • Upstate New York
  • 12-18-18

Fantastic book

Some consider the Boston Celtics of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when the team won 11 championships in 13 seasons, to be the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports. The two players who were most important to these Celtics teams were Bob Cousy and Bill Russell. This excellent book focuses on Cousy’s life, but the driving theme is the relationship between these two iconic Celtics, especially Cousy’s self-questioning about whether he truly had done enough to help his teammate deal with the racism Russell faced in those times.


The book starts with the thoughts of Cousy, now over 90 years old, expressing regrets over how he handled his relationship with Russell. From there, Pomerantz smoothly tells the story of Bob Cousy, from his childhood in which his father was abused by his mother, his difficulty with speaking English (his first language was French) and to his basketball career.  He achieved success at Holy Cross in college before his time in Boston, where he was the flashy point guard for the first six of the Celtics 11 titles, in which Russell was a key player for all of them.


While the book paints a terrific picture of NBA basketball, the Celtics and Cousy’s brilliance on the court, those are not what make this book one that must be read. The reader will learn about not only Cousy the player and Cousy the man, but also about his family and friendships as well. His beloved wife Missy passed away after more than fifty years of marriage. He maintained friendships with many teammates throughout the years, including with coach Red Auerbach.  But he always had troubling thoughts about Russell and whether he did enough for not only the man, but for the man’s cause and rights.


The book will not answer those questions for either Cousy or the reader, but with the current state of racial issues in the country, it makes sense to show that there are still many unanswered questions.  Yes, this is a biography of a basketball legend – but it is also so much more.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Hebern
  • Clinton, NC, United States
  • 11-19-18

A very good biography of Cousy

It is a biography of Bob Cousy. Cousy was the first of the flashy point guards in the NBA. When he retired he was the second leading scorer in NBA history. He’s gone way down that list since, but it shows the impact he had on the league at the time. He teamed with Bill Russell to create the Celtic Dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a period that has always interested me because I was an avid reader of sports books growing up and our school’s library didn’t have new books. The sports books I read were from this era.

This is a sports book, but it also examines race and in particular how race played a role in the treatment of Bill Russell at the time. When the greatest basketball player of all-time is debated few make the case for Russell. But, if you are naming the greatest basketball champion of all-time, few could argue against the case for Russell.

The book explores the differences in the way the Boston Celtics treated race and the way the city of Boston treated race. The Celtics were the first NBA team to draft a black player, the first NBA team to start 5 black players and the first NBA team to hire a black coach. The city of Boston was not nearly as open minded during the period on race. Russell in particular was not treated well because he was not one to quietly accept the discrimination and unfair treatment.

It is undisputed that Cousy never had a racist bone in his body, but as he aged he felt guilt that he didn’t do more to help the black players on the team, Russell in particular. The title of the book comes from a 90 year old Cousy reaching out to Russell to put those feelings of guilt into words.

The author does an ok job of reading his own book, but it would have been slightly better if a pro had been hired for the job.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 11-06-18

Great Premise, Not Quite Fulfilled in Good Book

I picked this one up because I read a great excerpt of it in Time. As Pomerantz describes it, this is basketball great Bob Cousy doing something remarkable, let alone for a 91-year-old who’s lived most of his life as a celebrity: reflecting on his own role in race as it played out in his lifetime.

I don’t regret picking up the whole book, but I do feel marginally misled by that excerpt. This book does deal with Cousy as he reflects on his friendship with Bill Russell; the two of them were the twin stars – Russell clearly the greater one – of the first NBA dynasty, one electric and one rock steady, one white and one black. It deals with that friendship, or strange lack thereof, in a beautifully written opening section, and then somewhat less satisfying at the end.

In between this is a different book altogether, also a good one, but not quite what I’d been sold on.

The heart of this is a biography of Cousy, and it’s certainly well done. Pomerantz has great admiration for the man, and he certainly persuades me to share it. Cousy himself felt like an immigrant, felt like a child of the ghetto who experienced a fraction of the native distrust that so haunted Russell.

I had no idea Cousy was, essentially, French, that he was the child of two French immigrants and that English was his second language. (I got to thinking that, alongside Tony Parker and, maybe someday, Frank Nkitlina, the French have a lot to boast about in their point guards.) I’d taken his name for Irish and that, of course, would have made him royalty in Boston. Instead, he could never quite overcome a combination of accent and speech impediment, and he could never quite be home in the world of celebrity athlete that he had a real hand in creating.

Pomerantz has a number of fine passages where he gives a sense of what it must have been like to watch Cousy play in his early days. He was, after George Mikan, the second inventor of modern play. And, where Mikan brought a combination of low-post precision and brute size, Cousy brought flair and creativity. Cousy is the forerunner of the basketball wizard – the Houdini of the hardwood. I think his Youtube clips probably don’t show the great panache of his original moves. Next to the greats of today, to Step Curry to take the exemplar, he must seem drab. In context, though, as Pomerantz describes it, he was a revolution.

This does begin to drag a little in the second half. Pomerantz has some great material, but he recycles the best of it. I think, in the end, the book would have been just as effective, and a little sharper, if it were about 20 percent shorter.

But the culmination here is the profile of Cousy in his waning years. Pomerantz lets us see him as a man unafraid to ask himself a difficult question: how was it possible he could have enjoyed such spectacular on-court chemistry with Russell yet not known the extent of what he endured as an African-American in Boston. (In one harrowing scene – one we get at least three times – vandals broke into Russell’s home, painted racist graffiti, and defecated in his bed.) Cousy seems to have been well ahead of most of his contemporaries when it came to race – he roomed with the Celtics first black player, and he served as a Big Brother to a handful of adolescent African-American boys – so he could easily plead his own documented good works. Instead, he probes his conscience for times he failed to ask the necessary question, for times he might have been even braver than he was and put his hard-earned reputation at risk.

And, while there is a lot to chew on in those culminating reflections, the somewhat disappointing truth is that they’re unresolved. Outside of a powerful scene in which Cousy, in a live television interview, began crying when asked about his relationship with Russell (another scene repeated multiple times) Pomerantz isn’t able to show us too much detail in Cousy’s reflections. I’m persuaded to admire the basketball player, admire the dignified way he’s aging in a world slowly forgetting the magnitude of his innovations, but I don’t quite have a sense of how I should admire him.

Cousy, that is, deserves admiration for his intention to ask himself deep questions at a time most of his contemporaries have faded or died. Pomerantz deserves credit for laying out those intentions as clearly as he does (and for the loving and attentive biography he works around that project). In the end, though, we see only the first half of the play – the pass as it’s leaving the hands of thoughtful man Cousy and careful writer Pomerantz. Good as this is, I’d like to see the second half of the play, the part where we see the pass get caught, the part where we see the reconciliation with Russell. And that, I’m afraid – both in life and in this otherwise fine book – we do not get to see.