Ron Boone Is Talkin’ With TJ
by Tom James, Spurs Director of Media Services
Ron Boone has served as the radio and television analyst for the Utah Jazz for the last 22 seasons. Wait a second. Why is the long-time voice of the Jazz featured on spurs.com? Glad you asked. First, he is a good guy. Second, he has a great story. And, third, he actually started his professional career with the Dallas Chaparrals which means, in my mind, he is a member of the Spurs family (as most of you know the Chaps moved to San Antonio in 1973 and became the Spurs). Boone played 13 seasons, seven in the ABA and then six in the NBA, and was a true star. He led the Utah Stars to the 1971 ABA Championship, was named to the 1975 All-ABA First Team and averaged 22.5 points per game for the Kansas City Kings, during the 1976-77 campaign, in his first NBA season. What makes his story legendary is The Streak. He is professional basketball’s forgotten iron man as he ran together a streak of 1,041 consecutive games played (only AC Green boasts a longer streak, appearing in 1,192 straight). Even more impressive is that Boone might be the only player in professional sports history to never to miss a single game in his career. In 13 seasons he was a perfect 1,041-for-1,041. It’s my pleasure to introduce Spurs fans to Ron Boone.
Tom James: The streak. You know I love the streak, 1,041 straight games. You never missed a game in your 13-year professional career. How is that even possible?
Ron Boone: You’d think it wouldn’t be possible, the way the game is played. I guess I was just blessed that I never received that major injury that takes a lot of guys out. I stayed in great shape, stretched and all that kind of stuff, but I was just lucky that I never got one of those major injuries.
TJ: Did you have a goal, what motivated you to be out there each and every night?
RB: Everybody likes to play. If you talk to any player, they never want to come out of the game. You love the game but that’s not something that you think about. I wasn’t even aware of the streak until it got to 400 or 500 games or something like that. Our PR director here brought it to my attention, that I had a streak going. How important was it then? It wasn’t important at all. You want to play, you want to play every game and you don’t even think about it. Later on in my career I thought “boy, this is something special.” And then you start taking pride in it, the fact that I’ve never pulled a hamstring or a muscle or a groin. You start thinking, why? Why hasn’t something like that happened to me? I realized it went all the way back to my high school days. My high school coach talked about stretching, warming up and getting ready to play.
TJ: Not only did you play in 1,041 games in your professional career. Never missing a game in 13 years. The rumor is that you never missed a game in your life. Is that true? That you never, ever missed a game at any level?
RB: Ever. Ever. From when I started playing in fourth grade. What a great story that is. That a guy can go his whole career without missing a game. One interesting note. I’ve been broadcasting games for the Jazz since 1988 and I’ve never missed a game in my broadcasting career. Not really sure how many games that is but I have a consecutive games streak going there as well.
TJ: Was the streak a big deal when it was going on?
RB: Yes, it was. As the streak went on I started getting plaques, balls, that kind of thing that indicated that I had a streak going. When I passed Johnny Kerr’s record, which was 844, I was with the Lakers and we were playing the Rockets in Houston and they flew my mother and wife down to watch the game. That was great. It became a big deal. I took pride in it. The longer I’ve been out of the game, the more important it has become and the more I’ve appreciated the fact, personally, that I never missed a game.
TJ: I know you are a positive person, I’ve never heard you complain about this next topic. The NBA doesn’t recognize ABA statistics so I argue that you’re professional basketball’s forgotten iron man. For example everyone made a big deal when AC Green passed Randy Smith, for the league’s longest consecutive games played streak. Yet virtually no one said anything when AC passed you. Do you ever feel like you don’t get enough credit for your streak?
RB: The only thing I wish they would have done was recognized it as a professional basketball record. If they didn’t want to take the ABA statistics into the NBA, to me it was still a professional basketball record. I wish they would have done something like that.
TJ: One thing I didn’t realize is that the streak ended in a strange way. It ended when you were waived by Utah. It was January of 1981, that season you were averaging 7.8 points a game, I assume you still had some gas left in the tank. What prompted you to retire versus sign with another team?
RB: As a matter of fact the Golden State Warriors called me. I asked myself, “Man, why?” I was already 35-years-old. It was the right time for me to retire.
TJ: You had a great career. Aside from the streak what are your proudest moments?
RB: I would have to say winning the 1971 ABA Championship with Utah was my favorite moment, without a doubt. My first year in Kansas City is something I’m proud of. NBA players didn’t have a lot of respect for ABA players at that time. That year there were a number of ABA players who had such an impact on the NBA, I was part of that so that meant a lot to me.
TJ: In 1968 you were drafted by both leagues, the NBA and the ABA. How did you pick the Chaparrals over the Phoenix Suns?
RB: I was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and I was drafted by the Dallas Chaparrals. I chose the ABA because my college coach said it was a young league and I’d probably have a better chance of making professional basketball there. I felt that by going to the ABA I probably had a shot. I still had to prove myself. At the time Cliff Hagan, who is a legend, was the coach for the Chaparrals. We had to play two-on-two and he would always play. I remember hearing about this hook shot that he had that was awesome, left and right, and during that time I blocked his hook shot a couple of times. I really think, even today, that’s the reason I ended up making the team.
TJ: This is a feature for spurs.com, so I need to ask a few Spurs questions. Assume you had some good battles with George Gervin. How good was he?
RB: Ice was the best. Probably the smoothest player I’ve ever seen in my life. No one could guard him. He was awesome. I hated going up against him. He was just so difficult to guard. It seemed like the harder you worked, the worse he made you look. Some guys have all of this energy, leave it out there on the floor, where George was just smooth, it looked effortless for him. He was one of the guys who really made the ABA look good once we merged with the NBA.
TJ: What was it like to play in San Antonio in the old days in the HemisFair Arena?
RB: The Baseline Bums were the best fans for the Spurs and the worst fans for an opponent. I think everyone in the league had a lot of respect for those guys, remembered those guys. Those were awesome fans. Probably at that time you couldn’t find better fans in the league.
TJ: Everyone in the Spurs organization has a tremendous amount of respect for Jerry Sloan. You’ve been part of Utah’s broadcast team for 22 years, which means you witnessed his entire run with the Jazz. What made Coach Sloan so great?
RB: First of all he was one of those no-nonsense type of coaches. Then he had a system that complemented the players that he had, which really helped make his career what it was, like Pop has done in San Antonio. Those guys both get a lot of respect. If you ever listen to the players who’ve played against Utah or San Antonio, they talk about the coach just as much as they talk about the players on those teams. Jerry Sloan had that much respect around the league.
TJ: These days you spend a lot of time on the golf course. What’s your handicap and why do you love the game so much?
RB: I’m carrying a five at 65-years-old, not really sure if I can get any better. As a matter of a fact I know I can’t get any better. The game of golf is an individual sport that just drives you to try to beat it. The golf course is going to shoot the same score. You’re constantly trying to beat this golf course, knowing damn well how tough it is. Then the margin of error in the game itself is so small, it just makes it so competitive and so hard to beat it. It’s an addiction. So many friends of mine take up this game and they can’t believe what it does. What you become after taking it up.
Tom James has served as the Spurs director of media services since 1994. In a new feature on spurs.com he will visit with various folks he’s met in his two decades working in the NBA, asking them questions about basketball and life.