In the midst of the Final Four festivities in Minneapolis on Saturday, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its class of 2019. The 12 newest members will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 6.
Included was Bobby Jones, one of the most relentless defenders the NBA has ever seen. He was nominated by the Legends committee, as he retired in 1986 and has been eligible for election for nearly 30 years. But it’s not an achievement he’s necessarily been waiting around for.
“There are two ends of it,” Jones told the Charlotte Observer prior to the selection. “I’m not really a publicity-type person, so that is a negative (of being selected). But as a Christian, that would increase my platform to share my faith. That would certainly outweigh anything else. So it’s a great honor, and it’d be great to have.”
After achieving the honor, he reiterated his stance.
“Basketball has given me a lot,” Jones after the announcement. “As a Christian, it’s given me a platform to share my faith. It’s given me a chance to coach and to influence young people. It’s given me friends, a great living — it’s just been everything in my life.”
Current Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Zeller told Sports Spectrum in 2014 that Jones had been a Christian mentor as he transitioned to the NBA.
“It’s very humbling talking to (Jones) because he is so down to earth and never makes a big deal out of anything,” Zeller said. “He is a great Christian man, and he’s had a big impact on me.”
In 2003, Jones co-founded 2xsalt Ministry, a non-profit in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., designed to help under-privileged kids. Its purpose is to be salt and light through relational ministry using sports, music, outreach and partners.
Jones has also been involved in coaching at various Christian middle and high schools in the area.
For Jones, “Naismith Hall of Famer” is a title he never thought he’d hold. He didn’t care for the sport as a kid. He only played to satisfy his father, who played for the Oklahoma Sooners. When Jones grew to 6-foot-9, however, and his abilities garnered the attention of a number of colleges, he changed his tune.
“I had great coaches and they encouraged me and inspired me and pushed me, and here I am,” Jones said with a smile.
Jones committed to the University of North Carolina, starring for Dean Smith and the Tar Heels from 1971-1974. He and his teammates reached the Final Four in 1972 before falling to Florida State.
Jones then played the first two seasons of his professional career in the ABA with the Denver Nuggets before the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976. He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1978, where he played until he retired in 1986.
Jones is perhaps best remembered as the sixth man on a 76ers team that won the NBA championship in 1983 and had stars Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks. They swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals to cap one of the most dominant seasons in league history.
Jones was a second-team All-American at North Carolina, an ABA All-Star and a four-time NBA All-Star. He was named to the ABA All-Defensive First Team twice and to the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight more times. His No. 24 jersey is retired by the 76ers. And now, almost three decades after first becoming eligible, Jones is also a “Naismith Hall of Famer.”
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