President Donald Trump presented 91-year-old Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday, praising him as "one of the all-time greats in the history of sports."
Cousy, 91, received the nation’s highest civilian award during a ceremony at the White House.
"This acknowledgment allows me to complete my life circle," Cousy said during the Oval Office awards ceremony. "I can stop chasing a bouncing ball. The Presidential Medal of Freedom allows me to reach a level of acceptance in our society I never once ever dreamed of."
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
The award is given for “meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Cousy played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963, winning six league championships and the 1957 MVP title. The Bob Cousy Award, given to the country's best point guard in men's college basketball, is named for him. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Cousy, who is white, is also known for speaking out against racism, one of the achievements Trump lauded him for. Cousy was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.
Trump spoke of Cousy's childhood during the Great Depression and discovering his talent for basketball at a young age. The president said Cousy never forgot his first mentor's advice to never be predictable, and jokingly added: "Hey, I've heard that lesson, too."
Cousy said the medal was made all the more special because it had been presented by the "most extraordinary" president in his lifetime.
"I know in your world, you're well on your way to making America great again," Cousy told the president. "In my world, it's been great for 91 years. Only in America could my story have been told."
After hanging up his No. 14 jersey, the 13-time NBA All-Star went on to coach basketball at Boston College.
Cousy played a key role in the formation of the NBA Players Association and has been outspoken about his passion for civil rights.
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 President Barack Obama.
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.