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Jo Jo White
*Jo Jo White was born on this date in 1946. He was a Black collegiate and professional athlete.
Joseph Henry White was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a Baptist minister, George L. White Sr., and his wife, Elizabeth Rebecca Guynn. As the youngest of seven children, he had three sisters, Shirley, Aldean, and Irene, and three brothers, George, Dewitt, and Ronald. He started playing basketball at six, graduated from McKinley High School, and followed the St. Louis Hawks.
Due to his age, White was eligible to play college basketball a semester early at the University of Kansas. White joined KU mid-season and entered the 1966 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. They played dominantly but encountered a physical Texas Western squad, now known as the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), in the Midwest regional final. Kansas lost in the 2nd overtime to UTEP, the first NCAA D1 team with an all-black starting lineup, who went on to win the National Championship. Part of this game was featured in the 2006 film Glory Road.
Due to his early enrollment, White had only one semester of eligibility, and Head Coach Ted Owens opted to have White play for the 18 games in the first semester rather than eight in the second. White became the team leader and made the NCAA All-American Second Team consensus in 1968 and 1969. He made the All-Big Eight team in the three subsequent years (1967–1969). He graduated with a degree in physical education.
After college, White played on the 1968 USA Olympic basketball team in Mexico City, Mexico. The team was not expected to win the gold medal because many future Basketball Hall of Fame players declined to participate. The U.S. Olympic Basketball Committee limited four roster spots from the NCAA, two from the AAU, three from the Armed Forces, one from Junior College (Spencer Haywood), and two for NAIA. The U.S. men's team, led by White and Haywood, unexpectedly went undefeated (9–0), beating Yugoslavia 65–50 in the title game.
After the Olympics, White was drafted the 9th pick overall in the 1969 draft by the NBA's Boston Celtics, who had just won their 11th championship in 13 years. There was some reluctance during the draft as White had a mandatory two-year military commitment. Then Boston's general manager, Red Auerbach, shortened White's commitment and allowed him to participate in the 1969–70 NBA season. He played for the Celtics from 1969 to 1979, winning two titles. His streak of 488 consecutive games played is still a Celtics record. White played 837 total games as a professional. He finished his NBA career with the Kansas City Kings for the 1980-1981 season. In his NBA career, White averaged 18.3 points per game during the regular season and 21.5 points in the playoffs.
In 1982, his number 10 was hung from the rafters of the Boston Garden. He made the All-NBA Second Team in 1975 and 1977. In 1991, White was welcomed into the Missouri Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. His jersey was retired by the Kansas Jayhawks in 2003. He was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame with the class of 2009 and the 2013 class of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class in 2015 alongside his former coach, Tom Heinsohn. Fellow Celtics John Havlicek and Dave Cowens formally introduced him into the Hall.
He was married twice, secondly to Deborah White and previously to Estelle Bowser. The retired Major League Baseball player Chris Chambliss is his cousin. In 1985, White moved to Rochester, NY, where he owned and operated several McDonald's restaurants until the early 1990s. In 2009, White and his wife owned a restaurant, JoJo's West, in Maynard, Massachusetts. He also appeared in the movies 1980's Inside Moves and 2007's The Game Plan. In 2010, White underwent a procedure to remove a tumor on the back of his brain. 2012, he started the Jo Jo White Foundation to support brain cancer research. Previously (1994), he led the Jo Jo White Growth League for children in middle school.
Jo Jo White died in Boston on January 16, 2018, from complications of his dementia, specifically pneumonia, which was brought on when he had a benign brain tumor removed. White was the director of special projects and community relations with the Celtics at his death.