Ed Macauley’s name will not show up on any version of NBA2K12. The Hall of Famer was not one of the all-time greats, although still a very good player. His role in NBA history has more to do with the trade Boston made sending him to St. Louis (along with the Ice Capades in a strange trading twist) in exchange for the number two overall pick. That number two pick was Bill Russell.
Macauley won an NBA title and lost another one. The player nicknamed “Easy Ed” was one of the pioneers of professional basketball, playing a sometimes-starring, sometimes-supporting role for Bob Pettit and his St. Louis Hawks and the early Boston Celtics. He was a mainstay in St. Louis and a beloved son of the Gateway City, earning a spot on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2003.
On a day when the NBA is fighting for its future and players and owners are arguing over millions and millions of dollars, one of the league’s earliest stars left in near anonymity. Macauley passed away at 83 on Tuesday in St. Louis.
Macauley averaged 17.5 points per game in his 10-year career. His PER was better than 16.8 for much of his career (according to Basketball Reference, and remember many statistics were not recorded in the early years of the league). That included a high of 24.1 in 1953 while playing with Boston. Macauley 20.3 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game that year.
He reached seven consecutive All-Star Games starting in 1951 and started in his last six. Basketball-Reference compares the career of this 6-foot-8 center/forward to Walt Bellamy, Patrick Ewing, Bob Lanier and Dwight Howard. It is tough to make comparisons to the early days of the NBA when players were still figuring out how to shoot and the shot clock was a new invention.
Macauley was a four-time All-NBA First Team member from 1950 until 1953. And, yes, he finally won his championship, toppling the Celtics and the player he was traded for in the 1958 Finals.
He earned the nickname Easy Ed, not for his play on the floor, but for a pretty funny incident on the floor, as Macauley explained in 2003:
“It was the first time I was appointed captain. We dressed in the basement of West Pine Gym and it was my role to lead the team from the basement locker room through the door.
“But nobody followed me when I ran down the court and made a layup. Then I heard people shout, ‘Take it easy, Ed.’ I didn’t realize it, but they were playing the national anthem. That ‘Easy Ed’ nickname helped me get a lot of attention.”
Attention was the big grabber for the fledgling young league. There were still regional priorities in drafting players — Macauley was originally picked by the St. Louis Bombers after a stellar career at St. Louis University — so teams could better market their players. The NBA was not the place you made money either. Macauley was an investment banker and television broadcaster after his playing days ended in 1959 at 31 years old.
He was one of the first great players. His number hangs from the rafters at the TD Garden for his work as a Celtic in those early years.
The game, as it hurtles toward some uncertain future, lost a big connection to its early past this week.