Jo Jo White, a seven-time NBA All-Star, twice a member of Boston Celtics championship teams, an Olympic gold medalist and now a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, probably is asked about one play more than any other.
It happened at Kansas.
It was the 1966 Midwest Regional final against Texas Western in Lubbock, Texas. The game went into overtime, and in the final seconds, White took a long jumper from the left side, and the ball fell through as the buzzer sounded.
But White was called out of bounds before he had taken the shot. No basket, and in the second overtime Texas Western prevailed.
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The call, White said, sadly for Kansas fans, was correct.
“My foot was out,” White said. “I looked at the tape until I fell asleep at the hotel room that night.”
Texas Western went on and won the NCAA title, becoming the first champion with an all-black starting five.
For White at Kansas, there would be one more NCAA appearance and a trip to the NIT finals, but nothing to match the run of his first season.
Still, he’s remembered as one of the greatest players in school history. White was a three-time All-Big Eight selection and second-team All-American in 1968 for coach Ted Owens, and his jersey was retired in 2003 and hangs at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It was a great experience, a wonderful time for me,” White said. “Coach Owens prepared you for life every day you were there.”
White cited the moment after the shot that didn’t count against Texas Western.
“You can’t moan and groan about that,” White said. “The beat goes on. We still had a chance to win that game.”
White was the Celtics’ first-round pick in 1969, the ninth overall selection. Celtics legend Bill Russell stepped down as player-coach that year, which resulted in Boston’s 11th NBA title in 13 years.
“He told me once that if he knew what kind of player I was he might have stuck around for another couple of years,” White said.
As it turned out, the end of the Russell era didn’t mean the end of Celtics championships. They won titles in 1974 and in 1976, when White was chosen NBA Finals MVP.
“The torch was passed to us by Bill Russell, and we passed it on to the next group,” White said. That group was led by Larry Bird.
White spent 10 years with the Celtics and played briefly with the Warriors before ending his career in 1981 with 13 games for the Kansas City Kings. He averaged 17.2 points a game in his NBA career, after a 15.3 career average at Kansas.
In 1968, White helped the United States win the Olympic gold medal in Mexico City. He was team’s second- leading scorer with an 11.7 average, trailing only Spencer Haywood, who also was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame this year.
White, a St. Louis native, served on Kansas’ staff for Owens’ final year in 1982-83. Also on that staff was current Kentucky coach John Calipari, another Naismith Hall inductee on Monday.
White lives near Boston and has worked in the Celtics’ front office, making his way back to Lawrence for campus visits in the summers.
“That was a special time and place for me,” White said.