BOSTON – Former Boston Celtics great and NBA Hall of Famer Jo Jo White, passed away on Tuesday.
He was 71.
“We are terribly saddened by the passing of the great Jo Jo White,” the Celtics said in a statement. “He was a champion and a gentleman; supremely talented and brilliant on the court, and endlessly gracious off of it. Jo Jo was a key member of two championship teams, an NBA Finals MVP, a gold medal-winning Olympian, and a Hall of Famer. His contributions to the team’s championship legacy may have only been surpassed by the deep and lasting impact that he had in the community. The thoughts and sympathies of the entire Celtics organization are with the White family.”
White, a seven-time all-star, was drafted by Boston with the ninth overall pick in the 1970 NBA draft. He would go on to be named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team in addition to being named to the all-NBA Second Team twice (1975, 1977).
The timing of White’s arrival was critical to a franchise that had already won 11 NBA titles, but was facing some uncertain times.
Before White reported to camp, player-coach and fellow Hall of Famer Bill Russell announced his retirement. In addition, the Celtics’ Sam Jones was also retiring after his Hall of Fame career with the Celtics.
Those ex-Celtics paved the way for White to come in and play significant minutes, but his rookie season was a rough one for the franchise which suffered its first losing season (34-48) since 1950.
But those rough times paved the way for a Celtics rebuild that eventually led to Boston regaining its place among the league’s elite which eventually led to a pair of NBA titles for Boston.
For his career, White averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.
In addition to having his No. 10 jersey retired by the Celtics, White’s No. 15 jersey number was retired at the University of Kansas where he was a two-time consensus All-American (1968-1969) which included helping lead Team USA to an Olympic Gold medal in 1968 in Mexico City.
One of the nation’s best basketball players, White was an exceptional athlete who drew interest in other sports as well, evident by him being drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds.