There are three players responsible for the reconstruction of the Boston Celtics following the retirement of Bill Russell in 1969. The first man had been along for years and years… the indefatigable John Havlicek. The second man came along in the 1970 draft… the indefatigable Dave Cowens. The third man was taken in the 1969 draft, Boston’s first draft pick after Russell retired… the indefatigable Jo Jo White.
It should be no surprise that with three indefatigable players at the core, the 1970s Boston Celtics were a squad of persistence, endurance, and grit. Jo Jo White exemplified all of those qualities. Between 1971 and 1977, White missed only 10 games while averaging 40 minutes a game. These seasons were White’s peak years and prime. He averaged 20 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals.
Great numbers for a point guard who was immersed in an offensive system that moved the ball early, fast, and often. And White was a fantastic finisher, which he proved in Game 1 of the 1976 NBA Finals. He scored 12 straight points in the fourth quarter to squash a Suns rally. He’d end up winning the Finals MVP for that series as Boston captured its second title in three seasons.
A foot injury in the 1977-78 season forced White to miss nearly half the season and induced his demise. On the wrong side of 30, White averaged just 11.5 points and 4 assists for the rest of his career with the Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and Kansas City Kings.
Jo Jo White came to play every day and every night. But he should be remembered most for being a player to routinely increase his already high level of play in the playoffs. His career scoring average was 17 points. In the playoffs he scored 21.5 points. His peers and contemporaries realized his greatness and placed him on seven straight All-Star Teams.
But forget the all-star part, every team would love to have a player like Jo Jo running the point.
Years Played: 1969 – 1980
2x Champion (1974, 1976)
Finals MVP (1976)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1975, 1977)
7x All-Star (1971-’77)
NBA - 837 Games
17.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 44.4% FG, 83.4% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1969-70 through 1979-80 season)
10th Points, 8th FGs Made
32nd FTs Made, 14th FT%
6th Assists, 16th APG
17th Steals, 31st SPG
6th Games Played, 4th Minutes Played