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“Jo Jo (White) Was a”/THE Man

January 17, 2018

I did not know he was sick, thus news that a great player and someone I truly admired, Jo Jo White had died at age 71, came as a very unpleasant shock.

“Playing off” the epic Beatles song title, as would playing off the ball, next to his superb floor play, is not difficult. So often Jo Jo was THE man!

He played with two other greats (John Havlicek and Dave Cowens) and many very good ones (Don Nelson and Paul Silas, to name two) under coach Tommy Heinsohn, on 2 underappreciated Boston Celtics’ title teams in 1974 and 1976.

The Boston team of that era, underappreciated in Celtics’ and NBA lore, won 68 games in 1972-1973, but were denied the title.

Until the Warriors’ epic failure, despite a record breaking season, that team had the most “reg” wins in NBA annals, by a non champion.

One game more than any, defined that team, the nice era of play and The man, Jo Jo White.

It was a Friday night, game 5 of the 1976 NBA final, the Celts at home, now tied with the upstart Phoenix Suns at two games apiece, in what had been an all home team final.

In a triple overtime classic, likely greater, certainly longer and more important (the winner of the latter game did NOT title) than a Friday night Boston Garden, two overtime Celts/Bucks classic 2 years earlier (Kareem Abdul Jabbar and John Havlicek dueled in greatness, the former’s long baseline “sky” decisive, but series MVP Havlicek and Boston won a Sunday afternoon decisive tilt at Milwaukee, incredibly their third win in 4 road games there in that ’74 final) Jo Jo played all 60 minutes and led the Celtics to an all important victory.

Before game 6 back at Phoenix, Jo Jo was interviewed by CBS analyst, former league official Mendy Rudolph. “How could the much older Celtics win at Phoenix, where they had lost twice especially after a long Friday night game, a flight to the road, Boston to Phoenix?

Jo Jo seemed confident they would. “Coming off” the epic win, by definition epic Phoenix loss, I thought so as well.

Later, through the crackling static, I could hear legendary Celts’ broadcaster, Johnny Most invoke that the Celtics had won their 13th NBA crown and second in 3 seasons, two after the epic dynasty, that won 11 in 13 seasons.

Jo Jo was the MVP.

Jo Jo, who battled the disease that took his life with classy, upright dignity and always dressed and lived the part, WAS and Is the man!

Go easy,” The Man,” bet Red (Auerbach) is working on a contract for you to play next to “DJ” (Denis Johnson) in a heavenly back court.

Say hello, but be careful, you know Red!

 

Jo Jo White pictured above, helped put up two more title banners. After starring in #5/’76 final at home, Jo Jo was the man (not in Tuscon) but in Phoenix, Arizona, that title winning Sunday afternoon in 1976, “the year of “Ike’s” teams.”

Click below to view a stirring version of “Get Back” with appropriate Jo Jo/Jojo lyrics, by “The Beatles.”

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