ABOVE PHOTO: Boston Celtics director of special projects JoJo White displays a lucky charm, one of Red Aurbach’s cigars, before the NBA draft lottery, Tuesday night, May 23, 2006, in Secaucus, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Basketball Hall of Famer Jo Jo White, one of the greatest players to come out of St. Louis, has died at 71.
White was a two-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and an Olympic gold medalist.
The Celtics announced his death Tuesday night. White’s daughter, Meka White, told ESPN that her father “died from complications (pneumonia) from dementia that was brought on by the removal of a benign brain tumor in May 2010.”
The team said it was “terribly saddened” by White’s passing, calling him a “champion and a gentleman; supremely talented and brilliant on the court, and endlessly gracious off of it.”
Born Joseph Henry White on Nov. 16, 1946 in St. Louis, he attended McKinley High, where he was a Post-Dispatch All-Metro and All-State selection. White acquired the name “Jo Jo” from legendary high school coach Jodie Bailey, who would shout “Joe! Joe!” when White would doze off during Bailey’s strategy sessions.
White played college basketball at Kansas and was an All-American twice and team MVP three times. He played 10 seasons for Boston, which drafted him ninth overall in 1969.
He averaged 17.2 points a game over 13 years, also playing for Golden State and the Kansas City Kings before retiring in 1981.
The Celtics retired White’s No. 10 the following year, and he still was working with the club as a director of special projects at the time of his death.
White averaged 18.1 points as a member of the 1974 Celtics championship team and was chosen MVP of the NBA Finals two years later when Boston won again, scoring 33 while leading the Celtics to a 128-126 win in triple overtime against the Phoenix Suns.
Boston traded White to the Warriors midway through the 1978-79 season and he remained with Golden State through the following season. He played one final season in Kansas City but was always beloved in Boston as a Celtic.
“His contributions to the team’s championship legacy may have only been surpassed by the deep and lasting impact that he had in the community,” the Celtics said in the statement. “The thoughts and sympathies of the entire Celtics organization are with the White family.”
White, who won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. team in 1968, was a seven-time NBA All-Star. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, when he recalled his performance in the triple-overtime victory over the Suns that put Boston one game away from winning another title.
White played 60 of a possible 63 minutes of the game. Former Boston coach and player Tommy Heinsohn said the induction into the Hall of Fame was long overdue for White, who was thrilled it happened after battling health problems, including a brain tumor, late in life.
“I absolutely adored playing this game,” White said.
He played on the 1968 U.S. Olympic team, which went 9-0 and won the gold medal in Mexico.
White was also named to the Post-Dispatch’s all-time All-Metro first team in 2013 — the 50th anniversary of the newspaper’s annual list of the top prep basketball players in the area.