Hall of Famer Sam Jones, who won 10 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, dies at 88

Sam Jones, a scorer at the clutch who won 10 titles with the Boston Celtics during their dynasty in the late 1950s and 1960s, passed away at the age of 88.

Jones died Thursday night in Florida, where he was hospitalized for ill health, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said. The team has planned a moment of silence before Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984, Jones played all 12 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics. Paired with KC Jones on the backcourt, Jones was a shooting guard known for his speed, his leadership on the court and one of the best bench shots in the game.

Jones was recruited unseen by Red Auerbach in 1957 from North Carolina Central. The Celtics were coming off a title, and Jones thought he had little chance of making the lineup, with Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman making up a legendary backcourt in Boston.

“I never felt so miserable in my life when I got the news,” Jones said at the time. “I really thought it was the end of my basketball career. Sure, I was thrilled with the honor … I never thought I would be able to get into the game, let alone the lineup.”

He averaged 4.6 points per game in his rookie season, but Auerbach liked his speed, intelligence and team focus. When Sharman was sidelined with injuries early in the 1960-61 season, Jones got his chance to start and became a fixture on championship teams.

“Sam was one of the great shooters of all time,” Auerbach once said. “But it was team oriented. All I wanted to do was win … Great athletes, they played out of pride.”

Jones was a five-time All-Star and finished his career with 15,411 points, averaging 17.7 points per game. He led the Celtics in scoring for three seasons, and when he retired, he held the franchise record for most points scored in a game at 51, a mark that was broken by Larry Bird. Jones’ 10 titles are the second most of any player, behind teammate Bill Russell (11).

Russell once said that if there was a shooting opportunity to win the game, he would want Sam Jones to take it.

“I had a good shot,” Jones said, “and I never thought about missing. I thought about the ball going into the basket.”

Jones honed his reputation for scoring decisively during the playoffs. In Game 7 of the 1962 Eastern Conference finals against the Philadelphia Warriors, Jones hit a winning jump shot with two seconds remaining on the outstretched arms of Wilt Chamberlain. In the Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers that year, Jones scored five of the Celtics’ 10 overtime points in Game 7 to help the team clinch its fourth straight title.

He retired from basketball in 1969 at the age of 36. In his last game, a victory for the Celtics over the Lakers in Game 7 of the Finals, Jones scored 24 points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.