The forgotten legend of Sam Jones: Revisiting the 10-time NBA Champion's iconic career with the Boston Celtics

Sam Jones goes to work. Photo:
Sam Jones goes to work. Photo:

Sam Jones, a Hall of Fame shooting guard for the Boston Celtics, should never be forgotten by the NBA and its fans. Mr. Clutch, as he was known, averaged 20 points per game in 7 of his 12 postseasons. Winning 10 championships, the only other player in NBA history to earn more rings is his teammate Bill Russell. Playing for the legendary John McClendon at North Carolina Central (once called North Carolina College for Negroes), Sam scored 1,770 points under the Hall of Fame coach. He struggled early with playing time and then exploded on the scene. His shot over Wilt Chamberlain to essentially win the Eastern Conference Finals in 1961-62 -- the year Chamberlain averaged 50 points a game -- pushed the Celtics past Philadelphia and into the NBA Finals -- where Boston defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the Celtics' 4th straight title. There would be more opportunites to win NBA titles.


Small town kid goes big time in Beantown

Sam Jones didn't understand understand at the time that learning the game under John McClendon prepared him to land on a perennial NBA championship outfit. He was upset upon finding out he was drafted by Boston (players received a phone call of where they were drafted back then). Despite getting offers from Big House Gaines at Winston Salem State, and desiring to go to North Carolina A&T because they had the best baseball program of any HBCU, Sam Jones went to North Carolina Central, also a HBCU for a few reasons: Jones is from Wilmington, NC, wanted to stay local, and Division 1 schools weren't taking many black athletes. Black schools weren't members of the NCAA, so those schools were devoid of following the same rules and guidelines. If a coach at a HBCU wanted you on his team, he could try you out at any time. There were few restrictions.

Mr. Clutch was a leading scorer during his time with the Celtics
Mr. Clutch was a leading scorer during his time with the Celtics

Staying local, he did not think he was ready to play for the best team in the basketball world. “I never felt so miserable in my life when I got the news,” said Jones. “I really thought it was the end of my basketball career. Sure, I was thrilled with the honor. I never thought I’d be able to break into the game, let alone the lineup.” Red Auerbach played him sparingly his rookie year, and in those 10 minutes a game, Sam Jones averaged 4.6 points. Then it clicked in 1958.

The ascension

In his second year, Sam Jones averaged 10.6 points a game. His minutes doubled, and Jones developed into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. In 64-65, Sam Jones put up 26 points a game -- a career high.


His signature

Sam Jones was a perpetual mover on the floor and often went to the glass. His movements were shifty. Sam Jones scored 15,411 points, dished out 2,209 dimes and hauled in 4,305 rebounds from 1957-1969. He made four All-Star teams and earned a slot on both the NBA 25th Anniversary and 50th Anniversary teams. The 7th pick in the 1957 draft was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. Jones is 6'4" 205 and was born on 6/24/33.

How Sam Jones won ten championships

Sam Jones and the Celtics won 8 straight NBA championships from 1959-1966 and then went back to back in 1968-69. Legend says Red Auerbach never saw Sam Jones play before drafting him. Auerbach usually scouts a player twice personally before drafting that player. He relied on a coach and his discretion when it came to Jones and shocked everyone in picking the unknown player. Sure worked out didn't it?


Often when hearing debates about NBA greatness, the subject of rings inevitably is mentioned. You hear the names Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and even Robert Horry. The name you should not forget is Sam Jones. When Bill Russell tried to keep Wilt Chamberlain under 50 points, it was Jones who often carried the scoring load. Bill Russell could not preoccupy his time scoring with such a responsibility, and thankfully Sam Jones was able to hit that big shot or execute that important play leading to a bucket and ultimately another Boston Celtics championship. We salute you, Sam Jones. Thank you for your dedication and diligence to fill up both hands with NBA championship jewelry. So, don't forget Mr. Clutch people.

How can you forget a winner anyway?

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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