Born: March 22, 1928
Died: November 9, 2011
St. Louis Bombers (1949-50)
Boston Celtics (1950-56)
St. Louis Hawks (1956-59)
Perhaps no man has ever meant more to St. Louis basketball than Ed Macauley. Macauley was born in St. Louis. He was raised in St. Louis. He went to high school and college in St. Louis. And he debuted as a professional basketball player in St. Louis.
However, it was not the St. Louis Hawks that drafted Macauley back in 1949. In fact, that particular franchise was still the Blackhawks and was in the Tri-Cities of neighboring Illinois and Iowa, years away from relocating to Missouri. Instead, the Bombers of St. Louis that gave Macauley his pro break at the tender age of 21 in the NBA’s very first season.
The young center was extremely lanky and thin. Standing at 6’8″, Macauley would never get much beyond 190 lbs. for the duration of his career. This meant he’d be routinely out-muscled on the boards by bigger, stronger post players, but that doesn’t mean Macauley didn’t often get the upper hand against other centers.
For starters, “Easy Ed” was a superb passer. Even if you did succeed in muscling him away from the basket, Macauley could nail cutting teammates with precision. For the 1950s, Macauley (a center remember) finished with the eighth most assists of all NBA players. To this day, Macauley ranks 13th all-time amongst centers in assists per game. Although he never set the world on fire with his board work, Macauley did produce five seasons of eight-plus rebounds per game.
Finally, of course, the string bean Macauley was a terrorizing scorer. He was one of the avant-garde players who took jump shots, possessed fantastic hook shots, and finished with trailing layups on the fastbreak all with ease. So much ease in fact, that in 1954 he set a new NBA record by shooting 48.6% from the field for an entire season.
His all-around play could be best encapsulated in 1953 when averaged 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game. Since that season, the Macauley Line, as I call it has been replicated by 30 other players, but Easy Ed was the very first.
All of these wonderful tales and examples of Macauley’s greatness may have started in St. Louis with the Bombers, but that was for only one season. After his rookie year in 1949-50, the Bombers folded and the Boston Celtics picked up Macauley, who in his first year with Boston would be the very first All-Star Game MVP. Teaming with Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman to form Boston’s first Big Three, Macauley helped turn Boston into a perennial playoff team, but they never got over the hump and into the Finals. The team had copious offense, but could never muster enough control of the boards and defensive end to dethrone its eastern rivals.
In addition to the on-court dilemma, one of Macauley’s family still lived in St. Louis and one of his children suffered from spinal meningitis. Understandably, Macauley preferred to be closer to his family in Missouri instead of trekking from Massachusetts.
So, prior to the 1956-57 season, Red Auerbach orchestrated a trade to send Cliff Hagan’s draft rights and Macauley to the Hawks, who had by now moved to Ed’s hometown St. Louis, in exchange for the draft rights to Bill Russell. Macauley would play just two more full seasons in the NBA, but they were two luxurious years for Macauley, nonetheless.
The Hawks met Boston for the title both seasons. Losing in seven games in 1957, Macauley’s Hawks bested Boston in the 1958 rematch. By this point Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan were shouldering the burdens of frontcourt scoring with the veteran Macauley as bench relief. After just 14 games in the 1959 season, Macauley retired and took up the reins as St. Louis’s coach. In 1960, he’d lead the club to yet another Game 7 loss to his old club, the Boston Celtics, in the Finals.
The St. Louis legend just couldn’t seem to extricate himself from attachments to the Boston Celtics. Only fitting, though, since both cities owe so much of their basketball legacies and success to Easy Ed.
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1951-’53)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1954)
7x All-Star (1951-’57)
Inaugural All-Star Game MVP (1951)