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Celtic Steve Kuberski remembers his altercation with Knick Luther Rackley

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Before there was ubuntu, there was Bunta.

Before there was number 33 – Larry Bird, there was Steve Kuberski – number 33.

Bunta?
Luther Rackley, a 6′ 10″ reserve Knick center had a bit part in a terrible old made-for-TV movie called the Last Dinosaur. His name was Bunta in it. (I bet Luther is glad I dug that fact up.)

Steve was the last Celtic to wear number 33 before Larry Bird.

Due to the notable absence of running trash talk last night, I bring you a memory from the rivalry from yesteryear. The time April 21, 1972. The place – Madison Square Garden.

The fourth game of the second round of the play offs was winding down. It was near the end of the game. Kuberski took exception to a Rackley elbow that hit the Celtic’s guard Artie Williams and Steve went after Rackley.

This is how the Watertown Daily Times of April 22, 1972 recorded it…

The New York-Boston game was marred by a fight near the game’s end that emptied both benches and sent inactive Knick team captain Willis Reed on a rescue mission.

Luther Rackley, New York’s 6-11 reserve center, and Steve Kuberski, a 6-8 substitute Boston
forward, slugged it out with1:25 left in the game and the Knicks leading, 114-95.

What was unusual was that it almost spilled into the dressing room.

I was able to track down Steve Kuberski and interview him about that moment:

Steve Kuberski: I was in the locker room and here comes Luther with Willis Reed right behind him. (Laughing) I was more afraid of Willis. I was wondering what was he mad about.

But then he (Willis) grabbed Luther, and pulled him away and kind of redirected him back to the Knicks locker room. I figure I could’ve taken Rackley. but Willis was another story.

The game was already decided as the Knicks were beating the Celtics by 116-98 to go up 3 to 1 in the series. Newest Knick Earl Monroe scored 26 points and Dave Debusschere added 23. The Celtics were led by John Havlicek with 27 points, and Jo Jo White with 23. Dave Cowens had 12 points.

Watertown Daily…

Both were ejected, but Rackley followed Kuberski into the Boston dressing room and Bill Bradley urged Reed, sitting at the press table, to keep tabs on their teammate.
As Reed limped toward the Celtic, quarters, he. heard the two players shouting and persuaded
Rackley to leave for his own dressing room.

It sounds like you swung at Rackley first. How did that come about?

Kuberski: It started when Rackley threw an elbow. I think he might have meant it for me, but he hit little Artie Williams, so I went after him to protect my team mate.

WaterTown Daily…

“I don’t know what started the fight.” Rackley said. “I was just trying to protect myself.”

Kuberski said it wasn’t fair that “a 6-11 guy like Rackley should take a swing at a 6-1
guy like Art Williams.”

I guess they didn’t have trainers in those days like today. Kuberski’s arm was injured.

Daily…

Kuberski’s right bicep was swollen after the scuffle. He was advised to keep ice on it during the plane ride to Boston and have it X-rayed today.

Another interesting bit of travel info from the days before the NBA was big business…

Kuberski: In those days, teams took the same charter flights together. Whenever we played the Knicks back-to-back, we would all get on the same plane to fly to Boston or New York for the next game, but the losers would have to sit in the back.

It was always a split series. It was rare that either team would win both games. Almost never happened. But we would be sitting on the plane together between games.

How times have changed.

Baby Boomer and loyal Celtic fans should remember 6′ 8″ Celtic forward Steve Kuberski.

For some reason this altercation has always stuck in my memory. Why? I don’t really know other than the unusual reason that it spilled into the locker rooms after the game.

The league was comprised of just 17 teams and four divisions then. The Tommy Heinsohn coached Celtics won the Division with a 56-26 record. The Red Holzman Knicks finished 2nd with a 48-34 record. But this was season of the 69-13 Lakers. The Knicks beat the Celtics 4-1 to advance to the title series. The Lakers won the title by dispatching the Knicks 4-1.

In the first round, the Celtics had finished off the Atlanta Hawks, who were led by Sweet Lou Hudson, Pistol Pete Maravich and Walt Bellamy. The Knicks beat the Baltimore Bullets (4-2) who were lead in scoring by Archie Clarke, Jack Marin ,and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.

The Celtics and Knicks were in the midst of a rivalry close to that of the Celtic/Laker rivalry. Perhaps it was more intense because the Knicks were in the same division, they played each other far more often, and were right up the road from their Boston neighbors. With only 17 teams you played within your division more often. The Cs played the Knicks 6 times in the regular season.

Both clubs had great teams then and were battling it out every year at that point. After a down year when Bill Russell retire, the addition of Dave Cowens brought the Celtics back to contending status.

Steve won two NBA titles with the Celtics in 1974 and 1976.

That 1972 season, the Knicks were coached by Red Holzman and were led by Walt Frazier and a balanced scoring unit that would make the Celtics proud. They had Jerry Lucas, Dave Debusshere, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett and Phil Jackson. Luther Rackley was a 25 year old, end of the bench 220 lbs, 6′ 10″ center.

The Celtics were led by John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, and some young undersized center named Dave Cowens. Don Nelson, Don Chaney, and ‘Satch’ Sanders were still playing over 20 minutes a game.

Steve Kuberski was a 24 year old 6′ 8″ 215 lbs, forward and in his third year as a Celtic. He was drafted the year after Bill Russell retired. He was there for one terrible year before they drafted Dave Cowens. Steve was playing 16 minutes a game averaging 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds that year.

So..in the absence of Quentin Richardson trying to get Paul Pierce’s goat, KG getting into anyone’s ear or ongoing dialogue between Eddie House and Stephon Marbury, or Marbury and Sam Cassell…

A blast from the past, with some gracious remembrances by the Celtics’ own Steve Kuberski.

I actually have some other thoughts by Steve and will try to put them in a separate article soon.

Thomas Halzack

11 Responses

  1. manny lopresto says:

    Rackley was a decent player and seems like a nice guy too.Those old knicks celtics and cavs teams were fun to watch.Alot of good underrated players on those teams like phil jackson, bingo smith,dick snyder,and hank finkal.Havlicek would dominate todays nba.great player!

  2. Tom Halzack says:

    Hey Luther, how about your Knicks? What’s your take on them now? Interested in hearing what you have to say.

    Btw…my research on the Cs will pass muster. My research on you? well…okay…You will know better than I will. Always willing to learn.

    So respond to the e-mail I sent you a while ago.

    T

  3. Tom Halzack says:

    replay to post #7: ouch! Luther you cut me to the quick! Come on, man. We’ve been through this before. You know I enjoyed your ‘schooling’ me on your career before. I appreciated the education, actually. You were quite the player in your high school and college days. You want to beat a dead horse?

    Or have you gotten so forgetful that you don’t remember we’ve been down this road?

    BTW…you never responded to my e-mail. The offer still stands.

    best,
    Tom H.

  4. Luther Rackley, Jr. says:

    MR.TOM– BY THE WAY, LUTHER RACKLEY STARTED INT’L BASKETBALL!! IN THE 70′S WHILE VP OF WALT FRAZIER SPORTS ENT. TOOK 32 PLAYERS TO THE PHILLIPINES FOR A TOURNAMENT FOR THE MARCOS FAMILY.++ IN THE 80′S COACHED A TEAM OF DR. ‘J’, MOSES MALONE, TINY ARCHIBALD, JOHN WILLIAMSON. MICHAEL RAY RICHARDSON, ETC., ETC. UNDEFEATED ACCEPT FOR THE ONE GAME MACCABI TELAVIV [SIC] STOLE. I WAS WARNED. DOWN TO BRAZIL TO COACH A GROUP OF NY KIDS I TRAINED FOR THREE WKS TO PREPARE THEIR NATIONAL TEAM FOR THE OLYMPICS. [OSCAR SCHMITT [SIC] AND HIS BOYS. QUITE AN EXPERIENCE ALMOST STARTED A WAR!!. ONCE OUTSIDE THE US.. BASKETBALL TAKES ON A WHOLE NEW PERSONALITY!! PS.. DON KING PIGGYBACKED ON MY TOUR TO PUT TOGETHER THE THRILLA IN MANILA. DID SOME OF THE CASTING FOR AND APPEARED IN THE WANDERS, FISH THAT SAVE PITTSBURG, ‘SO FINE’ WITH RYAN O’NEAL, ETC. HAD A SUCESSFUL CASTING OFFICE UNTIL THE KNICKS CENTER, NATE BOWMAN DIED IN MY OFFICE. APPARENTLY HAVING MORE FUN THAN HIS BODY COULD TAKE!! ONE OF MY BEST EXPERIENCES WAS TEACHING FOR 11 YEARS IN THE W. PLAINS AND NYC PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. AGAIN I HAVE BEEN BLESSED!! STILL AM!! LOVE LUTHER RACKLEY JR.

  5. Luther Rackley, Jr. says:

    HEY TOM… SINCE IT SEEMS YOU NEED SOMEONE TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR RESEARCH.. PLEASE READ—”ABSOLUTE PERFECTION” THE TROY RECORD NEWSPAPER, SUNDAY MARCH 13TH 20011, FRONT PAGE SPORTS. NOT BAD FOR A TALL SKINNY KID FROM TROY!! ACTUALLY YOU CHEAPEN THE CELTIC ORGANIZATION WHEN YOU ARE RESPONSIBE FOR THE TYE OF STUFF YOU WRITE. USUALLY WE FIND WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR . IF WE ARE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING POSITIVE, AS YOU CAN SEE.. YOU WILL FIND THAT ALSO. DEPENDS ON THE MIND SET!! THE CELTIS ARE A CLASS ORG.ORGANIZATION,AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN!!! DO THEY READ YOUR STUFF??? LOVE… LUTHER RACKLEY, JR.

  6. halzack says:

    Lol.

    Luther, you’re a funny guy!

    Yeah, everyone does things they might regret later (like a very bad dino movie).

    If Richard Boone (RIP) or Joan Van Arc writes a post here, I’ll chastise them as well. Fair enough?

    Well, if Boone posts…I’m outta here! =:o

    Seriously, thanks for being so good natured.

    You’re right about playing the game you love and getting paid for it. Millions of young men wish they had the chance to do the same.

    I’ll be in touch about what we talked about.

    Hope all is well.
    Tom

  7. TOM–AS I SAID, YOU CANNOT BELIEVE THOSE SILLY WEB PAGES. SEE MY ROOKIE CARD. ALSO THE CAVALIER CARD WHICH DOES NOT HAVE FG% ON IT. THEY DIDN’T KEEP BLOCKED SHOTS, STEALS AND SOME OF THE REBOUNDS AND ASSISTS ARE SOSPECT ALSO. I STILL HAVE THE FG RECORD AT XAVIER, ALSO. BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS WE WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO PLAY THE GAME WE LOVE, ON THE HIGHS LEVEL AND GOT PAID FOR IT IN THE PROCESS. AND YOU CAN’T TOP THAT!! AND IT WAS RICHARD BOONE AND JOAN VAN ARC’S MOVIE, I ONLY C0-STARRED IN IT. SO WHY AM I GETTING BEAT-UP ABOUT IT? [SMILE] BESIDES, IF IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM, IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. AND I DON’T CARE WHAT THAT DINOSAUR LOOKED LIKE— HE WAS DAMNED TOUGH!! LUTHER RACKLEY!!!

  8. halzack says:

    Hey Luther,

    Ha! Ha!

    That post is too good!

    Thanks for the response(s). Also thanks for enlightening me on your career!

    I had no idea……!

    But trash talk doesn’t die, does it? It just gets more imaginary……

    “AND I NEVER SHOT UNDER
    50% ON ANY LEVEL!! LOOK IT UP!! LOOK IT UP!!

    You might want to ‘rephrase that’ or take it up with the record keepers…

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/r/rackllu01.html

    Unless 50% is now written with a ’4′ in it, your statement appears to be a “slight embellishment.”

    NYS real estate broker? That means broke-er than before, eh?

    Thanks for the education on your career. Interesting stuff for sure.

    BTW – I actually saw that dinosaur movie you made with Richard Boone when it first appeared on TV. It was gawdawful!

    I think that myself and your mom were the whole audience that night. Worst looking dinosaur I ever saw. Sooo fake, it should have appeared on a Saturday morning cartoon. (shakes head)

    It was once voted the worst TV movie ever made.

    Ricahrd Boone was awesome on ‘Have Gun, Will Travel’, though. Great show.

    I didn’t know that you went on win Academy Awards (lol) and everything. (smile)

    Seriously, that’s impressive if you really did all those commercials and other acting gigs. I had no idea. Nice going.

    I know that players weren’t paid anywhere near what they are today. I’m glad you were able to find a new career and make it pay for yourself? Tell me you are kidding about the check for that movie!

    Dennis Rodman may not be crazy, but he’s not “Tim Duncan normal” either. Actually, I’ve never met the guy, so I have only what is public to go on.

    42-2 in high school? Why’d you lose those two games, slacker! I knew you weren’t any good! J/K : )

    Anyway, thanks for the response.

    May God bless you and yours as well,
    Tom H

    BTW….I’m not with the Globe. I’m with Comcast – CelticsStuffLive, and the Connecticut Post – CelticsCentral.

  9. halzack says:

    HEY TOM–LOUSY MOVIE?? BIT PART?? TOM DO SOME RESEARCH BEFORE YOU POST THIS STUFF.

    I WAS A CO-STAR, SIR– WITH RICHARD BOONE–ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD
    HEROS, WATCHED ‘HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL’ EVERY WK..AND JOAN VAN ARC A FINE LADY AND A DAMN GOOD ACTRESS, AMONG OTHERS. BESIDES, THEY’RE STILL PAYING ME FOR THAT MOVIE. GOT A CHECK FOR $1,240.86 LAST MONTH.

    HAD A 20 YEAR CAREER WITH SAG. EVEN DID A VERY NICE COMMERCIAL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE ”CHUMP”. LOOK IT UP. [SMILE]

    DID @40 NAT’L TV COMMERCIALS AS ON CAMERA PRINCIPLE. WORKED WITH MAGIC JONHSON ON HIS FIRST COMM. PAT EWING. DAVID ROBINSON, DENNIS RODMAN,[WHO IS NOT CRAZY BY THE WAY!] DR. ”J”, AIKEEM
    THE DREAM!!ETC, ETC. ASK THEM!!

    END OF THE BENCH PLAYER??? I BEAT THE CELTIC MY FIRST GAME OUT OF COLLEGE. TOOK YOUR ASSES APART.[SMILE] BLOCKED THE LAST SHOT,GOT THE BALL AND CALLED TIME-OUT AS PER COACH COUSEY’S(sic) INSTRUCTIONS. THEN SHOT A 20 FOOTER AT THE BUZZER TO WIN THE GAME. THE FIRST GAME OF MY PRO. CAREER. LOOK IT UP!! LOOK IT UP!!

    GUESS YOU KNOW I’M ENJOYING THIS!!

    I GREW UP WATCHING THE CELTIC AND KNICKS AS I’M FROM UPSTATE NY [TROY HIGH,65'] ONLY PLAYED 2YEARS. NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE. IN 2
    YEARS WE WERE 42-2. I LEAD IN SCORING 19PPG, REBOUNDING 16 PER GAME 8-10 BLOCKED SHOTS PER GAME.

    COUSY SAID ”YOU BLOCK MORE SHOTS THAN ”RUSS” [BILL RUSSEL] AND SINCE YOU SEEM TO ENJOY IT LET ME SHOW YOU HOW TO DO IT RIGHT!!

    BOB MADE ME AN EVEN BETTER SHOT BLOCKER!! AND I NEVER SHOT UNDER
    50% ON AY LEVEL!! LOOK IT UP!! LOOK IT UP!! ANY MORE FABRICATIONS?? YOU REALLY SHOULD CK SOME OF THIS STUFF BEFORE YOU PRINT IT.

    ANYWAY HOW YA’LL DOING UP THERE. SAW THE GLOBE GOT A REPRIEVE SO IT WON’T SHUT DOWN SO YOU STILL HAVE A JOB.

    I’M A NYS REAL ESTATE BROKER, WHICH IS WHY I HAVE THE TIME TO READ THIS STUFF. ANY JOBS UP THERE??

    GOOD LUCK TO THE CELTICS FAMILY AND YOU KNOW I WISH YOU WELL AND I’M SURE YOU WISH ME THE SAME.

    GOT BLESS YOU ALL

    ”IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER,SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT.
    LOVE..ALWAYS!!

    LUTHER RACKLEY,JR.

  10. halzack says:

    I have since come to believe that post really was from Luther Rackley.

    First…..thanks, Luther for reading.

    And thanks for your own input into the scenario.

    And the post that follows is another missive from the apparently maligned Mr. Rackley.

    read ahead….

  11. LUTHER RACKLEY says:

    YO—SEEMS I SHOULD READ MY OWN BLOG MORE OFTEN. FIRST TIME I HAVE SEEN THE REHASH OF AN UNFORTUNATE TUSSLE WITH MY FRIEND STEVE KUBURSKI. WE SPENT A SUMMER TOURING THE FAR EAST DOING THE USO HOSPITAL LOCATIONS FOR THE DEPT. OF STATE THE PREVIOUS SUMMER. DIFFICULT TASK BUT I FEEL THAT STEVE, DON NELSON, A COUPLE OTHER PLAYERS AND I WERE VERY WELL RECEIVED. ALWAYS THOUGHT STEVE WAS A GOOD BASKETBALL PLAYER AND A GOOD MAN. I WENT INTO THE LOCKER ROOM TO FIND OUT WHY STEVE CAME AFTER ME. MY JOB AND CAREER WAS BASED ON FIGHTING 7FOOT GIANTS, WHICH MOST PEOPLE FEEL I DID FAIRLY WELL. 6’1” GUARDS WERE NO CHALLENGE FOR ME!! ALL BOSTON–NY GAMES ARE INTENSE. JUST GLAD NO ONE WAS INJURED. HOPE STEVE AND HIS FAMILY ARE HEALTHY AND HAPPY AND MY REGARDS TO HIM AND ALL OF THE CELTIC FAMILY. RED AND SOME OF THE CELTICS HAVE SAID SOME VERY NICE THINGS TO ME AND ABOUT ME IN THE PAST AND THIS IS WHAT I REMEMBER. GO CELTICS–XCEPT WHEN YOU PLAY MY CAVALIERS, KNICKS, LAKERS [PHIL JACKSON] OR HEAT. [PAT RILEY] JUST DON’T MESS WITH MY BOYS CELTICS–OTHER THAN THAT–YOU KNOW I WISH YOU WELL!! GOD BLESS YOU!! LUTHER RACKLEY!!