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Friday, September 11, 2015

Jo Jo White to enter Hall tonight

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

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As of tonight, Jo Jo White will no longer be referred to as “the greatest player not in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.”

Thirty-four years after his playing career ended, the 68-year-old former Kansas University/Boston Celtics standout today will be enshrined in the prestigious Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“I’ve been a big champion of his. He should have been here a long time ago,” White’s Celtics coach, Tommy Heinsohn, told masslive.com on Thursday at the Hall. He was referring to White, a seven-time NBA all-star who was the MVP of the 1976 NBA Finals — the Finals in which he played 60 of a possible 63 minutes of a triple-overtime game against Phoenix.

“A lot of people took him for granted. He was one of those guys on the Celtics that was a terrific, terrific player,” Heinsohn added.

“It’s well-deserved and too long to wait. Jo Jo was a great player,” Celtics Hall of Famer John Havlicek told Sirius XM NBA radio.

White — he had his KU jersey No. 15 hung in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse in 2003 and Boston Celtics jersey No. 10 hoisted in The Garden in 1982 — has been patient, never publicly blasting the Hall for his omission.

“I just wondered why it was taking so long,” the 6-foot-3 White said in late July in a speaking engagement on the Hall of Fame’s Center Court, his comments as reported by masslive.com.

“I could ball,” White added. “I’m just letting you know. I could ball. I don’t care what somebody said or what they said, we came to play.”

On Thursday, White received his Hall of Fame jacket and spoke briefly to the media.

“I absolutely adored playing this game,” White said. “I thank the Lord every day ... and I’m still here. ... See, now you know. Can’t nobody tell you other. Now you know. I earned it,” White added of this honor.

White had surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2010.

He’s fully recovered, however, because of the stress involved in reading a long speech, his pre-recorded statement will play on the video board at the Hall with White standing at the podium.

“I’m feeling absolutely fantastic,” White told The Sporting News Thursday. “I wish I could still get out there and play, but I’m not.”

Of the surgery, his college coach, Ted Owens said: “Even though it was benign it put pressure on some things. He’s made great headway since the last time out (to KU a few years ago) when he was on a cane. Of course he is thrilled about his induction as you can imagine.”

White is one of the most popular players in both KU and Celtics history.

“Last year, I went back to a Celtics game with Jo Jo,” said Owens, who is in Massachusetts for tonight’s induction ceremony. “He wanted me to see his jersey which was in the rafters with many other great players. Kids from all over the stands — people all over — were coming up to get his autograph. He’s still loved and very well-known.”

White was a two-time All-American (1968 and ’69) and three-time all-Big Eight player who scored 1,286 career points, good for 29th in KU history.

“People used to ask me what are his strengths? I said his greatest strength is he had no weaknesses,” Owens said. “He was a great athlete. As a matter of fact, Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys really tried to get him to play pro football as a safety. That’s the kind of athlete he was. He was totally unselfish, would do whatever he needed to get the win.”

White tonight will be inducted with former KU grad assistant and current Kentucky coach John Calipari, NBA referee Dick Bavetta, four-time NBA al-star Spencer Haywood (who won a gold medal with White in the 1968 Olympics), eight-time NBA all-star Dikembe Mutombo and three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie.

Owens gave Calipari his first break in coaching, a spot on KU’s staff as a grad assistant. He remained in the same role under coach Larry Brown.

“I was impressed with him, so energetic. I thought he’d be a great recruiter,” Owens said of Calipari. “When I left KU in ’83, I was looking into the possibility of taking a job at Cal-Santa Barbara and I offered him a job if I went there. The Cal thing didn’t work out otherwise he’d have gone with me.”

This, that: Rich Clarkson, a 1951 Lawrence High graduate who worked as a photographer at the Journal-World while he was a KU student, on Thursday received the Curt Gowdy Media Award at the Hall. ... Tonight, former KU coach Brown will present Calipari for induction. Former KU women’s phenom Lynette Woodard will be one of the presenters for inductee Lisa Leslie. ... Brown will also be presenting Lindsay Gaze. ... White will be presented by Dave Cowens . ... Self today will visit the home of De’Aaron Fox, a 6-3 senior point guard from Cypress Lakes High in Katy, Texas, who is ranked No. 5 nationally by Rivals.com. ... Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, who played the past two years at KU frosh Cheick Diallo’s alma mater, Our Savior New American, has been declared academically eligible to play this season, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reports. This is seen as possible, positive news for OSNA grad Diallo, who is still awaiting word on his eligibility.

Comments

Bill Pitcher 7 years, 2 months ago

JoJo led good players to greatness; we've been fortunate to have many, many great players since, but they've all had other great players around them. There will never be another guard like JoJo White.

Michael Lorraine 7 years, 2 months ago

I didn't even realize he wasn't in the hall, I always assumed he was. I don't know why it's taken so long but its about time.

Harlan Hobbs 7 years, 2 months ago

I had the pleasure of living in the same dormitory with Jo Jo back in 1967 &68. I only met him a couple of times, but what a remarkable gentleman and talent. He had all of the self-confidence in the world but never arrogant. He knows how good he was and has totally earned this long overdue recognition.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 2 months ago

All of us are so proud of JoJo finally getting his just entry into the HOF. I'm personally overjoyed to see Ted Owens present to bask in his pride to to have both JoJo and Cal inducted. It's a big and proud night for Owens.

With the heavy Jayhawk slant for this years HOF ceremonies, I wish it could have been carried on TV locally, perhaps by the Jayhawk Network.

Anybody talking about the greatest players in Kansas history must have Chamberlain, Manning and JoJo White as the first three or lose all credibility. It's practically impossible to come anywhere close to a consciences for the other two starting five but those three should be unanimous.

That last toss in about Wilson is the best immediate news item of the article because it certainly bodes well for Diallo eligibility. Until now, I've been very skeptical.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

Agree on DIallo's eligibility Suzi. Without him this year will be tricky, with him we should be a handful. If we can beat MSU and KY in non con, and we should, it bodes very well for the rest of the season.

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 2 months ago

Characterization of JoJo's play: SMOOOTH!

James Donnell 7 years, 2 months ago

Yes, what a great night for Jo Jo and Coach Owens. Both of them class acts. I actually had the opportunity to speak to Jo Jo and play a game of pool with him at Naismith Hall the summer of '74, at Coach Owen's BB camp, when I was in summer school. The things I remember are that he was truly nice, truly humble, and had the most amazing set of muscular thighs--OMG. Oh, and of course he won. Then to see him in the triple overtime game in the NBA finals in '76. An absolutely unbelievable and unforgettable performance. CONGRATULATIONS JO JO!!!!!!

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