Celtics, Past & Present, Saddened by JoJo White’s Passing
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were deeply saddened Tuesday to learn of the passing of 71-year-old legend JoJo White after a courageous bout with cancer.
The former point guard, whom the C’s selected ninth overall in the 1969 NBA Draft, spent his first nine and a half seasons in Boston, averaging 18.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game all while earning seven All-Star appearances. The Olympic gold medalist established a still-standing franchise record of 488 consecutive games played that spanned from the 1971-72 season to the 1977-78 campaign.
White played a key role in leading the Celtics to a pair of championships in 1974 and 1976. He famously played 60 minutes, tallying 33 points and nine assists, during a triple-overtime win over Phoenix in Game 5 of the 1976 Finals, and later earned MVP honors for the series.
White, a gifted athlete who was also drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds, had his No. 10 retired by the Celtics in 1982, and he was later enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
As spectacular of an athlete as he was on the court, White was an even more outstanding person off the court. The St. Louis native was an active member of the Greater Boston community, and he always wanted to be involved in Celtics events. He was hired in May of 2000 by the Celtics' front office as director of special projects, a position that he held until his passing.
White impacted the lives of many players during his time in Boston, including former Celtic point guard Rajon Rondo, who happened to be in town Tuesday with his New Orleans Pelicans.
"I knew him pretty well," Rondo said following the Pelicans’ 116-113 overtime win at TD Garden. "He was probably one of my biggest supporters from Day 1 since I got here. He always supported me. He always gave me great advice, and his family, his wife, was very kind to me as well.”
White spread kindness to every Celtics player, coach and fan that he came in contact with over the years. Former Celtics forward and current NBC Sports Boston color commentator Brian Scalabrine took some time out of Tuesday’s television broadcast to commemorate White’s genuine personality and uplifting spirit.
“In 2010, before every game,” Scalabrine recalled, “he would stand at half court, give me a hug and tell me – every game – ‘You’re doing great; just continue to be who you are, and do what you do.’ That meant a lot to me.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens also had fond memories of the interactions that he had with White over the last four and a half years.
"I didn't get a chance to know him real well," said Stevens, "but my times that I spent with him he was always super kind. He was always clearly really appreciative to have been a part of the Boston Celtics, and you just appreciated how he treated everybody. And when he was around, you could tell he had an influence on our guys and an impact on our guys. It's really sad. Our hearts obviously go out to the [White] family."
Outside of TD Garden, former Celtics greats, including Paul Pierce and Bill Russell, took to Twitter to express their sorrow.
Extremely sad to hear about the passing of @Hoophall @Celtic Great JoJo White, lost his fight with cancer. He was not just a great player, but a great person. #RIPJoJoWhite @NBA #CelticsNation https://t.co/exjlnSe0iT— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) January 17, 2018
The vast outpour of condolences spanning across several generations of Celtics basketball showed how much of an impact White had on the storied organization. His exceptional contributions on the court will always be remembered, and his gracious, kind-hearted nature off the court will be missed.