If you grew up in the late 60’s and early 70’s and was a New York Knick fan you hated the Boston Celtics…and yes Jo Jo White was hated in new York as well…he wore Celtic green…
Jo Jo White was drafted in 1969 in the first round (9th pick overall) by the NBA‘s Boston Celtics and was also drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Reds.He was an All-Star for seven straight years from 1971 through 1977, finishing in the top ten in the league in assists from 1973–1977. In 1974, White and the Celtics reached the 1974 NBA Finals. They would face the Milwaukee Bucks who were returning with their championship-winning core from the 1971 NBA Finals, including future Hall of Fame members Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. With the Bucks starting point guard, Lucius Allen, injured at the onset of the playoffs, White would lead a small, quick line-up (featuring undersized, All-Star Cowens at Center) towards the first Celtics championship in the Post-Russell era.The following season, White led the Celtics in minutes in a season where they would finish 1st in NBA Atlantic Division with a 60-22 record but lost the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 1976, White was part of a dominance Celtics squad which featured 5 veterans averaging double-digit scoring. During the playoffs, White led the Celtics to the NBA championship and was a starring player in what is often referred to as “the greatest game ever played”] in NBA history. In the triple overtime win against the Phoenix Suns in game 5 of those finals, White was the game’s high scorer with 33 points, had a game high 9 assists, leading the Celtics to a 128-126 win. Logging 60 minutes of play time, only the Suns’ Garfield Heard (61) played more minutes. White was named the most valuable player of the 1976 NBA Finals.
White went on to become one of professional basketball’s first “iron men”, playing in all 82 games for five consecutive seasons during the 1970s and setting a franchise record of 488 consecutive games played. White suffered an injury during the 1977-78 season. With the end of the streak, White and the aging Celtics became a less effective squad and followed their championship with an exit from playoff semifinals in 1977 and then two losing seasons.
Unable to retain his all-star form following the injury, White was traded by the Celtics to the Golden State Warriors in the middle of the 1978–79 NBA season. Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan described the tension leading to the White’s trade from Boston
“being a Celtic, and, specifically, being a part of the Celtic mystique, meant a lot to Jo Jo White. In fact, being a part of the Celtics family and being able to come in and exchange quips with Red Auerbach and being able to identify oneself as a “Celtic” probably meant more to Jo Jo White than to any Celtic in the modern (i.e. post-Russell) era. Circumstances dictated that he leave, but leaving Boston was far from painless.”
White would retire in 1981 with the Kansas City Kings. He returned to the Jayhawks as an assistant coach from 1982–83. In 1987 at the age of 41, White attempted a professional comeback as a player-assistant coach with the Topeka Sizzlers of the Continental Basketball Association.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes… Celtic great Jo Jo White.