Basketball legend Bob Cousy received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in an Oval Office ceremony on Thursday.
Cousy, 91, played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six NBA championships and was voted MVP of the league in 1957. The Bob Cousy Award, given to the country’s best point guard in men’s college basketball, is named after him. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
“He is a great champion, and we love champions,” President Trump said of Cousy, known as the Houdini of the Hardwood.
Cousy was delighted to receive the award, and showed great gratitude to the president and our nation.
“It’s been great for 91 years. Only in America could my story have been told,” he said to Trump during the ceremony.
He said his life was always dedicated to help those who were less fortunate and those who needed a boost.
“If I’d known I was going to be eulogized I would probably have done the only decent thing and died,” he joked.
He even choked back tears as he spoke at the ceremony and reflected on his time on earth.
“I’ve thought so much about it,” he previously told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. “For me, it closes my life circle. It’s a completion for me. I will be a happy camper. I’m already the luckiest SOB on the face of the planet and this simply certifies that.”
After hanging up his No. 14 jersey, the 13-time NBA All-Star went on to coach at Boston College. In 1969, he was named head coach of the Cincinnati Royals, now the Sacramento Kings. Cousy held that position for four full seasons, resigning 20 games into the 1973-74 campaign.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given, the White House said in a statement, “to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Cousy is the second Celtics player to be awarded the Medal of Freedom, following his former teammate Bill Russell, who received the honor in 2011 from then-President Barack Obama.
Cousy is to be the second Medal of Freedom recipient this year. Trump presented the award to golfer Tiger Woods in May.
Cousy is the 10th honoree under Trump, who is Cousy’s candidate of choice in the 2020 presidential election.
In a recent interview with NBA.com, Cousy described himself as politically moderate. He said that although he disagrees with some of the president’s actions, he plans to vote for Trump next year.
Cousy supported Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in 2016.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.