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January 31, 2014

JoJo White to appear at Danvers library

DANVERS — JoJo White’s career as a basketball player is legendary. The seven-time NBA All-Star was named most valuable player of the 1976 finals and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

But anyone interested in looking beyond these honors may want to read “Make It Count: The Life and Times of Basketball Great JoJo White” by Mark Bodanza.

Bodanza will be at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers on Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss the career of the great Celtics guard, and JoJo White will appear with him. Anyone wishing to attend should register at www.danverslibrary.org.

“I like to weave historical context into what I’m writing about,” said Bodanza, who wrote two earlier books about football. “There’s a tremendous wealth of that with JoJo. There were so many things happening in this country.”

In 1968, for example, when White was scheduled to play with the US basketball team at the Olympics in Mexico City, a number of American players boycotted the event.

“Some things the International Committee was doing were prejudicial,” Bodanza said. “Martin Luther King Jr. joined the cause.”

White chose not to join the boycott and led the team to nine wins and a gold medal.

His career was affected by the military draft, which altered his status in the NBA draft, and by the conflict between the NBA and a rival basketball league, the ABA.

“They signed him to a league deal, where he agreed not to sign an ABA contract,” Bodanza said. “The leagues were actually spying on each other.”

White also played in the NCAA tournament when a team from Texas Western University, which had an all-black starting line-up, beat an all-white team from perennial powerhouse University of Kansas.

“‘Glory Road,’ the movie, talks about that Texas Western team,” Bodanza said. “JoJo actually beat that team.”

Playing for Kentucky, White made a basket in the last seconds that would have beaten Texas Western, but a ref said he was out of bounds when he took the shot.

“Pictures show the ref was looking at the backboard when JoJo was at the apex, when he went up with it,” Bodanza said. “JoJo had an indirect hand in that whole thing.”

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