Tenacious big man with hustle and heart.
Cowens almost wasn't a basketball player as he quit the Newport Catholic High School basketball team as a freshman and took up swimming and track and field. Between his sophomore and junior years of high school, he grew five inches and became a prep star, going on to find success as a standout player at Florida State University.
The No. 4 pick in 1970, Cowens averaged 17.0 points and 15.4 rebounds per game his first season with the Celtics en route to the NBA Rookie of the Year award. His addition helped Boston become a winning team again and over the next six seasons, the Celtics would win two titles and reach at least the East semifinals each season.
He had his best season in 1972-73, averaging 20.5 points and 16.2 rebounds per game and was rewarded by being named the league's Most Valuable Player. Although Boston lost in the East finals that season, they roared back behind Cowens to win the East in 1973-74 en route to two NBA titles over the next three seasons.
Boston traded Cowens' close friend, Paul Silas, after the 1976 title run. Shortly thereafter, Cowens retired from the NBA at the age of 28 during the 1976-77 season -- but that retirement lasted about 30 games. Cowens would play four more seasons and in 1978-79 served as player-coach of the Celtics, compiling a 27-41 record.
Following the 1980-81 season, he retired again and stayed out of the game for two seasons before playing the 1982-83 campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks. After his playing days, he was an NBA assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs (1994-96). He was coach of the Charlotte Hornets from 1996-99, going 109-70 in 2 1/2 seasons. He also coached the Golden State Warriors from 2000-02, going 25-80 in 1 1/2 seasons.
He finished his career with 13,516 points (17.6 per game) and 10,444 rebounds (13.6 per game). Overall, Cowens still ranks in the top 10 in several all-time categories for Boston and is the No. 3 rebounder and No. 6 shot blocker (473 blocks) in Celtics history.