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NBA 75 Series: #70 Sam Jones

Updated: Dec 24, 2021

Ranked #70 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is the great Boston Celtic shooting guard Sam Jones. Samuel Jones was born on June 24, 1933, in Wilmington, North Carolina and would go to Laurinburg Institute in Laurinburg, NC where he would become a stud and eventually go to the University of North Carolina Central College (NCC) to become an Eagle.

In college Jones would become a four-year letter winner at NCC for Hall of Fame coach John McLendon and Fred Brown. He would go on to score 1,745 career points, which is still second all-time only to Ted Manning. Jones would finish his college career as a three-time All-CIAA league selection with his jersey, no. 41, being retired and hanging in the Eagles' arena.

At the time of his draft Jones was 6-foot-4 and weighed 200 pounds when the legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach took a trip to the south to scout players who had just won the national championship. He was in the very infancy of a Celtics dynasty with them coming off their first title behind a rookie by the name of Bill Russell and the 1957 MVP in Bob Cousy. Auerbach wanted to continue winning titles and then he was told by former Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney that Jones was the best player in North Carolina.

He would then go on to get drafted by Auerbach and the Celtics with the eighth overall pick in the 1957 NBA Draft even though Auerbach had never seen Jones play. He would also get inducted to the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1962 and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1969.

But Jones made a legacy for himself, and before Jerry West, he was the one known as “Mr.Clutch” by many of his peers and was an integral part of those 1960s Celtics dynasty teams. His uncannily accurate bank shots, lightning quickness, and cool demeanor helped the Celtics win 10 NBA Championships (1959-66, 1968-69) in the 12 years he played with the team. Jones' 10 NBA titles rank second all-time behind only his Boston teammate, Bill Russell.

He was one of the most clutch performers, especially in the postseason throughout his career, averaging 18.9 points per game. From 1961-68, Jones averaged 22.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 2.7 apg as the Celtics won six championships in seven seasons. He was known for his lightning-like quickness and made the bank shot from different angles an art, something only Tim Duncan has been able to do since.

In 1964-65, Jones finished fourth in scoring in the league (25.9 ppg) and averaged 28.6 ppg in helping the Celtics defeat the Sixers and then Lakers for the title. That season would also mark the first of his three consecutive All-NBA second team selections. He would also hit the game-winning shot in Game 4 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Lakers as Boston would go on to take the series in seven games.

Jones would then retire at the conclusion of the 1970 Finals. He retired leading the Celtics in scoring in the 60s three different times, and for four straight years averaged over 20 points per game. When he retired in 1969, Jones held 11 Celtics records and had the single-game scoring record of 51 points (which was since broken by Larry Bird and Jayson Tatum). During his career, Jones racked up 15,411 points at a 17.7 points per game clip and shot .80% from the free-throw line.

To go along with his titles and All-NBA selections, Jones is a five-time All-Star, and a member of the 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversary teams. He was one of the great clutch players, shooters, and shooting guards in league history. He was a true winner.

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