Sunday, June 21, 2009

"He Stops ... He Pops ..." ... Slippery Sam Jones

We have an indulgence today, as one of our boyhood heroes is in the news.

Boston Celtic legend Sam Jones (the "Slippery" moniker was given to him by legendary radio announcer Johnny Most).

Sam Jones owns the second-most championship rings on any player (10, only one less than teammate, Bill Russell), a clutch-shooting guard, who mastered the bank shot.

Often, from either the fast break, or a set play, Sam would pull up, from about 12-15-feet out, off to the side, and launch a sweet jump shot, banking it in with a swish.

Jones gets honored this week, by the New England Sports Museum, as one of seven, for their contributions to Boston sports;

Honoring a big shot ... Celtics legend Sam Jones was there when it counted

It's hard to pick out some quotes to highlight, for one, there are so many (his "stool" fight with Wilt Chamberlain, being one), and secondly, so much of it is so vivid for me, having been there, at "The Garden" for so many of his heroics.

He is a five-time All-Star, a Hall of Famer, one of the league’s top 50 players, and his game-winning shot in the 1969 Finals against the Lakers - taken off the wrong foot with seven seconds left, bouncing around the rim and in - is one of the greatest in playoff history.

Yes, that season of 1969 was the year the Boston Celtics, defending champions, were supposed to be dead.

They were aging, and injuries contributed to their coming in 4th place, with most sports pundits counting them out.

It was to be the Year-of-the-Lakers, Wilt Chamberlain having been traded to LA, giving them a formidable line-up of Wilt, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor.

As it happened, they met in the finals, and West lighting them up for 54 in Game One (In LA), and forty-something in Game Two (both won by LA) ... Back to Boston, Celts win Game 3 and, in Game 4, Lakers are up by one, with about 10-seconds left, when Emmette Bryant stole the ball, with seven-seconds left.

16. 1969, Game 4: Sam Jones' Picket Fence
Only Bill Russell won more rings as a player than ten-time champion Sam Jones, one of the great clutch players of all time. In the closing seconds of Game 4, the Celtics ran a real-life version of the Hoosiers "picket fence". Jones came off the screens and got a shooter's roll to beat the Lakers 89-88, tying the series 2-2 and setting up one of the great upsets in Finals history

Actually, they have it wrong, it was an old Ohio State play, drawn up in the huddle by John Havlicek and Larry Siegfried.

And, I searched, for about an hour, for the photo that was in the papers the following day, a set of two, the first, showing the ball leave Jones' hand, as Wilt, Russell, and others are in the foreground, vying for position of a rebound .. There was no rebound, as the second photo captures Wilt, a look of anguish on his face, with his hands on the ball, just as it was coming out of the bottom of the net ...

The Celts went on to win Game 7, in LA, thanks to a shot by Don Nelson, that hit the rim, bounced high up, and then down, through the basket.

Jones, also, will be known in posterity, as part of the infamous "Havlicek Stole The Ball".
"All right, Greer's putting the ball into play . . . He gets it out deep and Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones! Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans. It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! Oh, boy, what a play by Havlicek at the end of this ballgame! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball on the pass-in. Oh, my, what a play by Havlicek! A spectacular series comes to an end in spectacular fashion! John Havlicek being hoisted aloft . . . He yells and waves his hands. Bill Russell wants to grab Havlicek . . . He hugs him. He squeezes John Havlicek. Havlicek saved this ballgame. Believe that! Johnny Havlicek saved this ballgame. The Celtics win it, 110-109. We'll be back with our wrapup in just one minute!
-- Johnny Most, describing the end of a basketball game played at Boston Garden April 15, 1965.
(You can go HERE, to hear the radio call)

For, at least, one more night, Sam Jones will be in Boston, and he'll stop, and pop, igniting so many great memories.

Bonus Riffs

Celtics-Lakers ... Not Quite The Old Days, But It Will Do

A Personal Note: The End For A True, True, Icon - Red Auerbach

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