Did Dave Cowens Really Take a Break From Playing Basketball to Drive a Cab Instead?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Dave Cowens once took a break from the Celtics during the season to drive a cab.

Dave Cowens was the fourth overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft and was named Co-Rookie of the Year at the end of that season.

By his third season in the NBA, Cowens was one of the best centers in the game, and in that 1972-73 season, Cowens averaged 20.5 points per game and 16.2 rebounds on the way to being named the NBA Most Valuable Player (although, amusingly enough, he did not make the First Team All-NBA, something he never managed to crack during his career).

After the Celtics won the NBA title in 1974, Cowens actually wandered around Boston celebrating with the “regular folks.” He famously ended up sleeping on a park bench that night. That was likely a sign of things to come for Cowens (think Pulp’s “Common People” – actually, instead, think William Shatner’s cover of Pulp’s “Common People”).

The Celtics won another title in 1976.

The following year, though, Cowens was feeling “burned out,” so he actually took a 65-day leave of absence from the Celtics to, I guess, find himself or whatever.

And, true to “common people” form, Cowens drove a cab during this time off (early in 1977).

He returned to the Celtics and played 50 games that season, but still, wow, that’s some weird stuff right there.

Cowens took a crack at being the coach of the Celtics in 1978-79 (a player-coach), but did not enjoy it, so he quit as coach. He did not like his replacement, though, Bill Fitch, so after playing for him for one season, Cowens decided to retire.

In one last bizarre move, Cowens decided to “un-retire” two years later and put his services on the open market. His former teammate, Don Nelson, was now the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, so they signed Cowens, but had to trade Quinn Buckner to the Celtics because the Celtics still owned the rights to Cowens.

After one mediocre half season in Milwaukee, Cowens retired – this time for good.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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