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Sam Jones, Sharpshooting Celtics Star of the 1960s, Dies at 88


Sam Jones, the Boston Celtics’ sharpshooting Hall of Fame guard who played on 10 N.B.A. championship teams, a milestone exceeded only by his teammate Bill Russell, died on Thursday in Florida. He was 88.

His death was announced by a Celtics spokesman, who did not specify a cause but said that Jones had been in failing health. He also did not say where in Florida he died, but Jones had been living in the Orlando area.

When Jones was selected by the Celtics out of the historically Black North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University) in the first round of the 1957 draft — he was the eighth player chosen overall — he was more astonished and apprehensive than thrilled. Since players at Black colleges had gained little national notice at the time, he viewed himself as a potential pioneer, though he questioned his chances of making a Celtics lineup brimming with stars.

“I had a lot of pressure put on me,” Jones told The Boston Globe in 2009. “We didn’t have scouts coming in to see what the Black colleges were doing. If I make good, they’re going to start looking into the Black colleges.”

Jones and his wife, Gladys Chavis Jones, who died in 2018, had five children. Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Jones averaged 17.7 points a game in the regular season for the Celtics, but he was particularly dangerous in the playoffs. He hit a jump shot over the Philadelphia Warriors’ Wilt Chamberlain in the final seconds of Game 7 in the 1962 Eastern Division playoff final, giving Boston a 109-107 victory. He had five of the Celtics’ 10 overtime points against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the league finals, helping to propel Boston to a fourth consecutive championship.

Jones relished getting the best of the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain.

“I never challenged him by trying to drive right on him — he’d just block your shot,” he told Terry Pluto for the N.B.A. oral history “Tall Tales” (1992). “I’d stop in front of him and shoot over him. Then I talked to him. I talked to everybody on the court, but it was a lot of fun to say things to Wilt because he’d react to them.”

In a fight-filled fourth quarter of Game 5 in that Celtics-Warriors series, Jones collided with Chamberlain, who outweighed him by nearly 50 pounds, and they exchanged unpleasantries. When Chamberlain grabbed at Jones’s wrist — perhaps in a peace gesture — Jones ran off the court.

“He saw Wilt still coming after him, so Sam picked up one of the photographers’ chairs and held it out at Wilt as if Sam were a lion tamer,” the referee Norm Drucker recalled to Mr. Pluto.

“He was about ready to go up into the stands — he didn’t want to fight,” said Chamberlain, the strongest man in pro basketball. “So I said, ‘Ah, forget it.’”

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