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Celtics legend Sam Jones dies at 88

Basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones, the Boston Celtics’ “Mr. Clutch” whose sharp shooting fueled the league’s longest dynasty and earned him 10 NBA titles has died at the age of 88.

Jones died on Thursday in Florida, where he had been hospitalised for failing health, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said.

“Sam Jones was one of the most talented, versatile, and clutch shooters for the most successful and dominant teams in NBA history,” the team said in a statement.

“His scoring ability was so prolific, and his form so pure, that he earned the simple nickname, ‘The Shooter,’” the Celtics said.

“The Jones family is in our thoughts as we mourn his loss and fondly remember the life and career of one of the greatest champions in American sports.”

The Celtics honored Jones with a moment of silence before Friday afternoon’s game against the Phoenix Suns, showing a video tribute on the screen hanging among the championship banners above the parquet floor at the TD Garden.

His No. 24, which was retired by the Celtics in 1969 while he was a still an active player, was also displayed on the monitor in the hushed arena before a still photo of him in a suit and the words “Sam Jones 1933-2021.”

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Five-time All-Star

Celtics coach Red Auerbach discovered Jones when he went to North Carolina to scout the national champion Tar Heels for the upcoming draft. Auerbach said he was told that the best player in the state was actually on Hall of Fame coach John McLendon’s team at North Carolina Central.

Auerbach selected Jones in the first round of the 1957 draft, eighth overall, despite never seeing him play.

Jones went on to average 17.7 points and just under five rebounds in 12 years with the Celtics, leading the team in scoring five times, including the 1963 champions, who had eight Hall of Famers on the roster.

Jones was even better in the playoffs, averaging 18.9 points per game in the postseason. When he retired in 1969 at the age of 36, he was the only player in Celtics history to score more than 50 points in a game.

Using a bank shot that was unconventional even then, Jones came to be known as “Mr Clutch” after a series of game-winners, including a buzzer-beater to clinch the 1962 Eastern Conference finals.

He hit an off-balance, wrong-footed jumper to win Game 4 of the ‘69 Finals and instead of heading to Los Angeles trailing 3-1, the Celtics tied the series against the Lakers at two games apiece and went on to win in seven.

Jones retired after that title, having won his 10 championships in 12 seasons. A five-time All-Star, he was was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. He was named to the NBA’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary teams.

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