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November 16, 2009

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EXCERPT | Nov. 14, 1960

Passing Fancies

The night two of the NBA's greatest point guards met

Bob Cousy's NBA career was winding down and Oscar Robertson's was just starting when they played against each other for the first time. William Leggett reported on the Cincinnati Royals' 113--104 victory in Boston.

Robertson demonstrated that he is every bit as good a pro as his college career gave promise he would be. This does not mean, however, that Cincinnati is ready to challenge Boston for the championship. Cousy is still the better player, still runs his team with a surer hand. As he did in college, Oscar loses his temper easily, reacts to adverse calls by officials with childish petulance. But he has the eye of a squirrel hunter, the sleight-of-hand dexterity of a magician, the speed of a sprinter. The question is not whether he can make it among the pros. It is, rather, how big can he make it? He has the ability, if not the temperament, to be "the next Cousy."

Bill Sharman, who split the guarding assignment on Robertson, perhaps summed up Oscar best. "He has three or four fakes all in the same move," said Sharman. "He is a big man with the moves of a really tremendous little man."

For the rest of the season and for years to come, people will be comparing Robertson and Cousy, much as the new music is compared to the old. After their first meeting, there was still one clear difference between the two. Twenty minutes after Robertson had pushed his way through a group of imploring youngsters on the way back to his hotel, Cousy stood in the light drizzle that was falling on the midnight streets of Boston and signed autographs.

Cousy retired in 1963 after helping the Celtics win their fifth straight NBA title. The Big O retired in '74 as the league's career leader in assists.

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Free-agent Market

SI's Ben Reiter ranks the major leagues' top 50 free agents entering the off-season. Among them:

1. John Lackey RHP

Angels

11--8, 3.83 ERA (top left): Since 2004 he's never had an ERA higher than 4.00

2. Matt Holliday OF

Cardinals

.353 avg., 13 HRs (top right): In 63 games with St. Louis he drove in 55 runs

3. Jason Bay LF

Red Sox

.267 avg., 36 HRs (bottom right): Pure power hitter led Boston with 119 RBIs

4. Chone Figgins 3B

Angels

.298 avg., 54 RBIs: He led AL in walks (101), tied for third in steals (42)

5. Nick Johnson 1B

Marlins

.291 avg., .426 OBP (bottom left): Productive when healthy, defense a plus

Read more about Reiter's must-have free agents at SI.com, plus:

Tom Verducci's breakdown of every free agent by position and the best-value buys

Cliff Corcoran's Team-by-team analysis heading into the hot stove season

PHOTOPhotograph by HERB SCHARFMANCALL IT EVEN In a matchup of number 14s, the 32-year-old Cousy (27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) set the pace for the 21-year-old Robertson (25, six, seven). PHOTOTONY TRIOLO (ESPOSITO) PHOTOANDY HAYT (MARINO) PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (WILLIAMS) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (LACKEY) PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (HOLLIDAY) PHOTOGREG NELSON (BAY) PHOTOTOM DIPACE PHOTOGRAPHY (JOHNSON) PHOTOLANE STEWART (STEINBRENNER) PHOTODARREN CARROLL (WESLEY) PHOTOANTHONY J. CAUSI/ICON SMI (JAMES)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)