In Celebration of Bobby Jones

A serene and gracious man, few defenders have ever come as tough and agile as Bobby Jones. The results of his defensive pressure would result in ruin for opponents, but at least they had the honor of being shut down by a gentleman like Mr. Jones.

Although Jones spent most of his professional career with Philadelphia the NBA, he got his start in the ABA like fellow 1983 title members Julius Erving and Moses Malone. In a league known more for its offensive fireworks than defensive showstoppers, Jones was nonetheless an instant hit. As a member of the Denver Nuggets, Jones was named a member of the ABA’s All-Defensive 1st Team in his first two seasons. In 1976, his Nuggets secured the ABA’s best record and a trip to the Finals versus the New York Nets. Featuring Erving, the Nets defeated the Nuggets for the final ABA title. Of course, Doctor J and Bobby J would play side-by-side for the 76ers in three NBA Finals in the early 1980s.

Before the 76ers glory years, though, Jones’s career was put in jeopardy by a heart condition and epileptic seizures. These medical issues planted doubt that he might not continue apace toward greatness. Taking a chance, the Sixers traded for Jones in the summer of 1978 sending George McGinnis to Denver in return. Playing reduced minutes after arriving in Philly, Jones fortunately continued his sterling defensive play as the heart problems subsided and the epilepsy was successfully managed through medication.

In addition to the defensive toughness, Jones brought along a fair share of potent offense, which was always an understated asset from the All-Star forward. True, Jones was never prone to racking up huge scoring games, but the shots he took went in. Three times he led the NBA and ABA in field goal percentage and never shot less than 52% for a season. Among forwards in NBA/ABA history (with a minimum 300 games played), Jones’s .560 career field goal percentage is the fifth highest per basketball-referece.com.

He achieved that absurd shooting percentage, in part, by being one of the fiercest in-game dunkers ever. There was no malicious intent, he just happened to have the hops and was intent on making sure he got two points for his team. Woe to those who stood in his way.

Dunks might gain the glory, but Jones had a knack for making all kinds of great plays when the game was on the line. Over and over again, he would deliver timely blocks, steals, rebounds, and hustle plays to thwart opponents and save the Sixers.
The NBA recognized Jones for the amazing defender he was with eight straight All-Defensive 1st Team appearances, six of which came with the 76ers. Add in his two ABA selections and Jones racks up a career total of 10 All-Defensive 1st Team selections, more than any other player. As a Sixer, Jones was also named an All-Star twice.
Given his ability to pack an instant defensive punch whenever he stepped onto the court, it is no surprise that Jones was the inaugural winner of the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1983. That same year of course, Jones helped lead the Sixers to the NBA title.

Retiring after the 1986 season, Jones’s defensive prowess is exemplified by being one of just seven players in NBA/ABA history to rack up 1300+ blocks and 1300+ steals in a career. Just the sort of illustrious display you’d expect from Bobby Jones, who managed to convert tranquil hustle into thunderous dunks, ridiculous blocks, and game-saving steals.

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