It’s been more than 30 years since Bobby Jones last laced up his sneakers and tied up opposing players. He wouldn’t beat you on the stat sheet, but he would beat you to the best spot on the court. Sometimes that meant a dunk in transition. Sometimes it meant drawing a charge.
And then, with you and him splayed out on the Spectrum floor, the crowd in a Schmidt’s-enhanced frenzy, Jones would do one more unique thing. He’d help you up.
On a team full of stars, Bobby Jones preferred the shadows. That won’t be an option when he takes his place among the greats as part of the 2019 class of Basketball Hall of Fame inductees. His enshrinement, albeit decades later, says that defense and hustle still kind of matter.
It’s hard to find a better compliment for another person than what Charles Barkley had to say among these notable things to know about Bobby Jones.
♦ He was first-team all-defense in each of his first seven NBA seasons (1977-84). Only Gary Payton (1994-02) had a longer streak of first-team selections with eight. Jones’ number could have been higher. Denver was in the ABA in his first two seasons when he was first-team all-defense in that league.
♦ Was the NBA’s first Sixth Man of the Year (1983). Only two other Hall of Famers have won the award: Kevin McHale (1984, 1985) and Bill Walton (1986). Aaron McKie (2001) is the only other Sixer to win it.
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♦ Jones averaged 12.0 points and was a +40 in the four-game sweep of Los Angeles in the 1983 Finals, the last time the Sixers won the title.
♦ Stepped quickly out of his comfort zone when he and wife Tess bought a Mercedes-Benz in the early 1980s. "We got a good deal on it, but I don’t like to drive it,” he told the Inquirer’s George Shirk in 1983. “It’s too pretentious.”
♦ Earned a starting spot on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team because of his defense. The Americans lost controversially to the Soviet Union in the gold-medal game.
» FROM THE ARCHIVES: 40 years later, Bobby Jones still didn’t want that silver medal
♦ Played 12 seasons professionally despite asthma and occasional epileptic seizures. His teams made the playoffs every year.
♦ Former Sixers assistant coach Jack McMahon called Jones, “the best player alive in the last three minutes of a game.”
♦ Jones was a devout Christian, but he never pushed his faith on teammates.
♦ Was acquired by the Sixers on Aug. 16, 1978 along with reserve Ralph Simpson and a 1984 first-round pick (which became Leon Wood) from Denver for George McGinnis and Mike Evans.
♦ Bobby Jones is “a guy,” wrote Daily News columnist Mark Whicker in 1983, “who says it really isn’t that important who wins, and then runs himself into exhaustion.”
♦ Is seventh in Sixers history in steals and fifth in blocked shots.
♦ Played at North Carolina for Dean Smith and for 11 of his 12 years in the pros was coached by former Smith proteges Larry Brown and Billy Cunningham.
♦ “When you’re with Dean Smith, you’re with him for life,” Jones once said. “The bond that he forms with his players doesn’t break when they leave. It just gets stronger and stronger.”
♦ One of 20 former players, coaches and staff that spent time with the Sixers franchise who is in the Hall of Fame. He’s one of nine players to have his number retired by the club (see list below).
♦ Had his No. 24 retired by the Sixers in 1986 which led then 23-year-old star Charles Barkley to observe, “If everyone in the world was like him, the world wouldn’t have any problems.”
In a 1983 interview with the Inquirer, Jones summed up his time at the ’72 Games, which horrifically included the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian extremists.
"We were close enough to hear the gunfire, but we didn’t think about it. Maybe it was fireworks or something. We didn’t know about the terrorist raid on the Israeli team until we went downstairs. The way it was then, we had to go through an underground parking lot to get to the gym. But when we went down there, all we saw were tanks and jeeps. It wasn’t a training camp anymore, it was a military camp,” he said.
» FROM THE ARCHIVES: A chilling description of the ‘Munich Massacre’ from 40 yards away
“That woke me up to the way things were as far as sports as big business was concerned. After the massacre, and after the rest of the Israeli team left, most of us on the team felt that we should go home and that the Games should terminate. But I guess there was too much at stake insofar as money was concerned. Television money, endorsement money. That was what was important at the Games.
“In the final game we played, the game was stolen by the Russians in the last second. We protested by not going to the medal ceremony. That’s why I don’t have a silver medal. We never got them. I felt very bitter about the whole thing, and how it ended.”