When he graduated from North Carolina Central in 1957, Sam Jones debated playing in the NBA or becoming a high school teacher.
Then, the Celtics – who’d just won a championship behind guards Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy – drafted him No. 8.
“I never felt so miserable in my life when I got the news,” Jones said. “I really thought it was the end of my basketball career. Sure, I was thrilled with the honor … I never thought I’d be able to break into the game, let alone the lineup.”
Jones had an offer from a high school and requested a $500 salary increase. The school said no. So, Jones went to Boston.
That decision worked out pretty well.
Jones – who has died at age 88 – not only made the Celtics despite concerns he wouldn’t, he developed into an all-time great.
His 10 championships are second to only Boston teammate Bill Russell, who won 11 (the extra coming in 1957, the year before Jones arrived). Jones wasn’t merely along for the ride, either. A three-time All-NBA second-teamer and five-time All-Star known for his clutch shooting, Jones made the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.
Jones was a titan of basketball.
Once he settled for the profession.