Sam Jones Rumors
From Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton to Sam Jones to Willis Reed to Earl “The Pearl” Monroe to Bob Love to Anthony Mason to Charles Oakley to Ben Wallace, it used to be commonplace to see players from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the NBA All-Star Game. But today, it’s rare to see an HBCU player in the NBA at all. There is only one HBCU player left among the 30 teams: Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington, who starred at Tennessee State. “That’s a little disturbing,” Wallace told The Undefeated. “Most of us HBCUs, we’re scorers or specialists. The league has shifted to shooters and that has weeded out a lot of the HBCU players.”
Where K.C. Jones went, winning was sure to follow. K.C. – his given name – was a twelve-time NBA champion as player and coach, a two-time NCAA champion, and a Gold medal-winning Olympian and Hall of Famer. In NBA history, only teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones have more championship rings during their playing careers. K.C. along with Russell, Clyde Lovellette, Jerry Lucas, Quinn Buckner, Earvin “Magic “Johnson and Michael Jordan, are the only players in history to achieve basketball’s “Triple Crown” – winning an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. His number 25 has hung from the rafters since 1967.
Justin Kubatko: LeBron James will play in his 50th NBA Finals game tonight. Only six others have reached that mark: 70 – Bill Russell 64 – Sam Jones 56 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 55 – Jerry West 52 – Tom Heinsohn 50 – Magic Johnson James is the only player above to do so with three different teams.
Al Attles: Not many from my era could play today. Bill Russell could have played today. Oscar Robertson. Come on. You got guys now who think they’re better than Oscar Robertson? This is a different game now. But not many guys of that size would be able to deal with Oscar Robertson. They would go out there and go, ‘Oh, God, Oscar Robertson.’ Oh, my goodness. Bill Russell, Sam Jones. But I would also say Guy Rogers. Guy Rogers probably, in my mind, was as good with the basketball as anybody today. And I’m talking about just with the ball. I’m not saying shooting and all that. But I’m talking about with the ball going where he wanted it to go.
He played for eight Celtics teams that won NBA championships, filling different roles in each of them. For the first four, all in a row, he was a legendary sixth man off the bench on teams dominated by Bill Russell’s defense and offense from Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Sharman. The next two—everybody but Russell and Sam Jones gone—he was a starter and a scorer. For the last two, Russell and Sam gone, an entirely different roster with Dave Cowens at center, he was a veteran presence, a scorer, a star. He played so long he was part of two Celtics championship eras. He was named an All-Star in 13 of his seasons. “I never thought I’d play this long,” he once said. “I thought maybe eight years. That seemed to be the limit when I broke in.”
He was as amazing to his teammates off the court as he was on the court. Great attention was paid to his fussiness, his profound sense of order. He would hang up all of his clothes in his locker, even his socks. Who hangs up socks? He would arrange all his toiletries by height. Who arranges toiletries by height? He would take care of the bill at all team dinners. No, he wouldn’t pay the bill. He would go down the list, making sure each player would contribute for that extra glass of wine or that more expensive entrée. Who cuts up the check like that in modern-day sports? “Well, back then, nobody was making the big money,” Mal Graham, a Celtic for two championship teams, says. “These were the cheapest guys you’d ever meet.”
Jack MacMullan: In the book, you lament the fact you weren’t more in tune with the kind of racism Russell endured. Bob Cousy: I didn’t become aware of Russ’ problems until later. He came to the team, and we had K.C. [Jones] and Sam Jones, and they were all an integral part of our success. Arnold [Red Auerbach] deserves credit for how he handled the integration of the Celtics. He handled it easily, by treating everybody the same: badly.