Hall of Famer Sam Jones, who won 10 titles during the Boston Celtics' dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s, died Thursday, the team announced. He was 88.
Jones was in failing health and had been hospitalized in Florida, team spokesman Jeff Twiss said, via the Associated Press. The Celtics held a moment of silence for Jones before their Friday matinee against the Phoenix Suns.
— NBA (@NBA) December 31, 2021
Jones' 10 titles are second only to teammate Bill Russell and his sharp shooting earned him the simplest, but most telling, nicknames during his time in Boston.
"Sam Jones was one of the most talented, versatile, and clutch shooters for the most successful and dominant teams in NBA history," the Celtics said in a statement. "His scoring ability was so prolific, and his form so pure, that he earned the simple nickname, 'The Shooter.' He was also known as 'Mr. Clutch.'"
Sam Jones' career
Jones' No. 24 jersey was retired by the team in the final season of his Celtics career. That 1969 season gave him his 10th and final championship over a 12-year career. He earned five All-Star nods and was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. He's been named to the league's 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary teams.
“Sam Jones was as much of a one-of-a-kind athlete as he was an individual,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “As one of the greatest champions in American sports history, Sam embodied what it means to be a winner both on and off the court. He was natural scorer and will forever be one the most clutch performers the game has ever seen. He will be tremendously missed by the entire Hall of Fame family.”
He was the Celtics' No. 8 overall pick in the 1957 draft by iconic coach Red Auerbach. Auerbach had never been to North Carolina Central to see the young star play, but had heard of him while in North Carolina to scout the Tar Heels.
Jones averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists for his career. He led the team in scoring five times, including the 1963 champion run. That roster had eight Hall of Famers. He averaged 18.9 points throughout the club's postseason runs.
NBA reacts to Sam Jones death
The NBA community reacted to the news of Jones' passing. NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted Jones' "selfless style, clutch performances and signature bank shot were hallmarks of an incredible career."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Sam Jones. pic.twitter.com/9dTs1619wK
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) December 31, 2021
Celtics broadcaster Cedric Maxwell honored his "dear friend" and fellow North Carolina native. Boston drafted Maxwell 20 years after Jones and nearly a decade after Jones had retired.
Another one of my dear friends lost. Well, the banks are open in heaven this #NYE.
RIP to fellow NC native, a legendary player, a 10x champion w our @Celtics, and a wonderful person.
☘️🖤#samjonesRIP #RIPSamJones #Celtics #BleedGreen pic.twitter.com/xGktleXDmK
— Cedric Maxwell (@cedricmaxwell81) December 31, 2021
Thinking about and praying for North Carolina legend Sam Jones, who just passed away this morning. Sam led an incredible basketball career at NCCU and the Celtics. I remember honoring him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. God bless him and his family! pic.twitter.com/mIqCMuESRz
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) December 31, 2021
Jones' death follows that of Tommy Heinsohn, a member of eight Celtics championship teams who died in November 2020 at the age of 86. K.C. Jones, also an eight-time champion, died on Christmas day in 2020 at the age of 88.