Boston Celtics legend Sam Jones has died at the age of 88, the team confirmed to the Associated Press. Jones had been hospitalized in Florida. The team is planning a moment of silence before Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns in honor of Jones.
Jones was a key figure in Boston’s dynasty in the 1960s, winning 10 NBA championships in total as a member of the Celtics. Only Bill Russell, with 11, won more. Jones made five All-Star teams and averaged 17.7 points per game across 12 seasons in the league. Called “Mr. Clutch” during his career, Jones hit a number of game-winning shots during his career and consistently raised his scoring in the postseason. Cedric Maxwell was among the Celtics figures to pay tribute to Jones after his death.
Jones was the No. 8 overall pick in the 1957 NBA Draft after a decorated career at North Carolina Central. He was thereafter inducted into both the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and NAIA Basketball Hall of Fame before eventually earning enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. He was part of the NBA’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary teams. Jones coached briefly after his retirement, including as an assistant for one season with the New Orleans Jazz. NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement on Jones.
Jones was one of the NBA’s best shooters at a point in history in which the 3-point line had not yet been adopted and big men dominated the league. He was one of basketball’s first great shooting guards and was renowned for his prowess on bank shots. He led the Celtics in scoring three times in his career despite playing with several other Hall of Famers.
“You look at the championships and what he did, it’s obviously a big loss for the community here,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Friday. Jones’ No. 24 hangs in the rafters at TD Garden, forever honoring him as one of the greatest players in team history.