The Hall of Fame Case for Bobby Jones | Defensive Brilliance
Welcome to our three-part retrospective looking back on the career of 76ers legend Bobby Jones, a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Enshrinement. Over the next few weeks, we’ll examine Jones’ famous defensive prowess, his underrated offensive power, and his redefinition of clutch play. Here’s Part I:
Since defense was the calling card of Mr. Bobby Jones, we’ll appropriately address it in the first installment of this series. The man was so enraptured with defense, Jones’ sculpture on Legends Walk at the 76ers Training Complex is of him making a hectic dive to capture a loose ball.
Make no mistake about it - Jones was an absolutely masterful defensive player. He played fast, smart, and rough. Now he certainly gave a hard foul from time to time, but never did he foul hard intentionally to send a message to anyone. Jones insisted on not using gimmicks or cheap shots to gain leverage on opponents:
“If I have to play defense by holding on, that’s when I quit. If I have to use an elbow to get position, then I’m going to have to settle for another position.”
As we take a look at how Jones’ debonair demeanor manifested itself statistically, we’ll include both NBA and ABA stats and honors, since Jones played his first two seasons in the ABA.
During his 12-year career, Jones was named to the NBA or ABA All-Defensive First Team 10 consecutive times. In his 11th season he was finally “demoted” to the All-Defensive Second Team. Only in his final season was Jones not named to an All-Defensive Team.
Counting the NBA and ABA selections together, no player has more total or consecutive All-Defensive 1st Team selections than Jones’ 10.
Looking at other defensive statistics tracked over his playing career, Jones ranks with the very best of the era. From the 1974-75 to 1985-86 NBA/ABA seasons, Jones cemented the following ranks:
6th in defensive win shares(43.2)
6th in seals (1,387)
11th in total blocks (1,319)
These ranks are more impressive considering that Jones was often on a minutes limit due to a heart condition and epilepsy. Only three seasons in his career did he average over 30 minutes a game – all with the Nuggets. During his eight seasons with the Sixers, he only played 25 minutes a game.
Nonetheless, Jones averaged 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game for his career.
Only six retired players – Jones, Julius Erving, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Chris Webber, and Andrei Kirilenko – have hit that steals/blocks plateau. Jones’ career average of 27.3 minutes per game is easily the lowest among the bunch.
Another notable numerical feat Jones hit during his career was 1300+ blocks and 1300+ steals.
This is another exclusive club that only includes Jones, Erving, Olajuwon, and Robinson, plus Clifford Robinson, Kevin Garnett, and Ben Wallace. Once again, Jones played the fewest minutes (25,728) by far amongst the players in this club. Everyone else eclipsed 32,000 career minutes.
So, when it comes to Bobby Jones and his defense, it was not only done in an upstanding manner. He did so in a multi-faceted way that packed in a lot of bang for the buck. Low-post steals, weakside blocks, passing lane thefts, stout man-to-man coverage, deftly switching on pick-and-rolls - he could just about do it all.
And as we’ll chronicle later in this three-part series, some of Jones’ best defensive work fueled the 76ers’ offensive fast breaks, and also came in the most pivotal of moments.