When it comes to discussing the top basketball players ever produced in St. Louis, Jo Jo White is at the top of the list.
The Basketball Hall of Fame member and former Public High League star died on Tuesday night at the age of 71.
When you are a member of the Hall of Fame, possess two NBA championship rings and have your number retired by two historic basketball institutions such as Kansas and the Boston Celtics, it is hard to argue against Jo Jo White not being the best ever from St. Louis.
Jo Jo White was an extraordinary player who did it with style and elegance. His fundamentals were perfect and his toughness was unwavering. As strong as he was on the court, he was every bit the gentleman off the hardwood.
On those great Celtics teams of the 1970’s, you had the intensity and fierceness of Dave Cowens, the constant motion of John Havlicek and the toughness of Paul Silas and Don Chaney. And then there was Jo Jo, who made it all run smoothly as the point guard with his fluid style, floor leadership and dangerous bucket getting. His handles were nice and the jumper was on point.
A smooth 6’3 guard, White accomplished it all at every level. He was an All-State performer in high school at Vashon and McKinley, a collegiate All-American at Kansas and an All-Pro and world champion during his stellar NBA career with the Celtics.
White was also an Olympian who led the USA to the Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
White honed his craft in high school under the tutelage of legendary high school coach Jodie Bailey. He led Bailey’s Vashon team to the quarterfinals of the state tournament in 1963. He finished his prep career at McKinley before graduating early in 1965 to attend Kansas, where he was a two-time All-American in 1968 and 1969.
Once he hit Boston, he was an immediate standout as a member of the NBA’s All-Rookie Team in 1970. He was a key component of the Celtics world championship teams in 1974 and 1976.
As a nine-year-old kid living in Milwaukee, I was in attendance at the Milwaukee Arena in 1974 when White had 16 points and five assists in the Celtics victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Brew City was riding high after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s dramatic sky hook won Game 6 in Boston Garden and brought the series back to Milwaukee for Game 7. But Jo Jo and the Celtics shut it down with a dominating 102-87 to take the championship.
Two years later, White took center stage as he took home MVP honors of the ‘76 Finals after the Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games. He had 33 points and nine assists in Boston’s epic triple overtime victory in Game 5.
Jo Jo White was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.