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Basketball Hall Of Famer Sam Jones, Winner Of 10 NBA Titles, Dies At 88

BOSTON (AP) — Basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones, the Boston Celtics’ “Mr. Clutch” whose sharp taking pictures fueled the league’s longest dynasty and earned him 10 NBA titles — second solely to teammate Bill Russell — has died, the workforce mentioned. He was 88.

Jones died Thursday night time in Florida, the place he had been hospitalized in failing well being, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss mentioned.

“Sam Jones was one of the most talented, versatile, and clutch shooters for the most successful and dominant teams in NBA history,” the workforce mentioned in a press release.

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“His scoring ability was so prolific, and his form so pure, that he earned the simple nickname, ‘The Shooter,’” the Celtics mentioned. “The Jones family is in our thoughts as we mourn his loss and fondly remember the life and career of one of the greatest champions in American sports.”

The Celtics paused for a second of silence earlier than Friday afternoon’s recreation in opposition to the Phoenix Suns, exhibiting a video tribute on the display hanging among the many championship banners above the parquet ground on the TD Garden. His No. 24, which was retired by the Celtics in 1969 whereas he was a nonetheless an lively participant, additionally was displayed on the monitor within the hushed enviornment earlier than a nonetheless photograph of him in a swimsuit and the phrases “Sam Jones 1933-2021.”

“Another one of my dear friends lost,” Celtics broadcaster Cedric Maxwell wrote on Twitter. “Well, the banks are open in heaven this #NYE.”

Often offering the offense whereas Russell locked issues down on the different finish, Jones averaged 17.7 factors per recreation over 12 seasons. The quantity went up within the postseason, when he averaged 18.9 factors and was often the No. 1 possibility for the sport’s ultimate shot for the groups that gained 10 titles from 1959-69.

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“We never flew first class in my 12 years of playing basketball,” Jones instructed The Associated Press this fall in an interview for the league’s 75th anniversary. “But we always won NBA championships.”

In 1964, Jones was a member of the NBA’s first beginning lineup to incorporate 5 Black gamers, becoming a member of Russell, Tom “Satch” Sanders, Ok.C. Jones and Willie Naulls. Although coach Red Auerbach maintained he was pondering solely of his greatest likelihood to win, the lineup broke with an unwritten rule that pressured groups to have a minimum of on white participant on the ground.

Sam Jones, a North Carolina native who served two years within the Army earlier than returning to varsity, instructed the AP that the NBA of the Sixties was little totally different than the segregated South the place he grew up and went to high school.

“I’m fighting for the freedom of everybody here in the United States. And when I come back, I still got to fight for my freedom,” Jones mentioned. “Something is wrong with that, and has always been and is happening even today.”

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver mentioned Jones shall be remembered as “one of the most prolific champions in all of professional sports.”

(*10*) Silver mentioned. “Sam was a beloved teammate and respected competitor who played the game with dignity and class. We mourn the passing of a basketball giant and send our deepest condolences to Sam’s family and the Celtics organization.”

Born in Wilmington, Jones attended North Carolina Central, a Division II, traditionally Black college in Durham. Auerbach first heard of Jones when he went to North Carolina to scout the nationwide champion Tar Heels and was instructed that the most effective participant within the state was really at Central enjoying for Hall of Fame coach John McLendon.

Auerbach chosen Jones within the first spherical of the 1957 draft, eighth total, regardless of by no means seeing him play.

“Russell and I are the most successful players in winning championships in the NBA. Yet he never saw us play a game because they had no scouts,” Jones instructed the AP. “The coaches called other coaches to see how other players were playing. They took their word for it.”

Jones led the Celtics in scoring 5 occasions — together with the 1963 champions, when he was one among eight future Hall of Famers on the roster. When he retired in 1969 on the age of 36, Jones held 11 Celtics information and was the one participant in franchise historical past to attain greater than 50 factors in a recreation.

“You look at the championships and what he did, it’s obviously a big loss for the community here,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka mentioned earlier than Friday’s recreation.

Using a financial institution shot that was unconventional even then, Jones got here to be often known as “Mr. Clutch” after a sequence of game-winners, together with a buzzer-beater to clinch the 1962 Eastern Conference finals. He hit an off-balance, wrong-footed jumper to win Game 4 of the ’69 Finals; as a substitute of heading to Los Angeles trailing 3-1, the Celtics tied the sequence in opposition to the Lakers at two video games apiece and went on to win in seven.

Jones retired after that title, having gained his 10 championships in 12 seasons. A five-time All-Star, he was was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Jones was named to the NBA’s twenty fifth, fiftieth and seventy fifth anniversary groups. His dying comes a 12 months after teammate Tommy Heinsohn and 13 months following the dying of Ok.C. Jones.

AP freelancer Doug Alden contributed to this story.

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