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Celtics fans fondly remember Jo Jo White’s impact

Jo Jo White (right) ran the point for the Celtics for 10 seasons.
Jo Jo White (right) ran the point for the Celtics for 10 seasons. file/george rizer/Globe staff

Basketball fans in Boston reacted with sadness Tuesday night to the news of Celtics great Jo Jo White’s death.

“It’s a shame,” Ken Astrove, a 74-year-old retiree from Marblehead, said from The Fours Restaurant and Sports Bar near TD Garden.

Astrove put on his glasses to examine several Celtics team photos on the wall of the restaurant’s second floor dining room. A few of the photos featured White, in his No. 10 jersey, seated in the first row. White, Astrove said, was an important cog on some memorable Celtics teams.

“He was an incredible player,” said Astrove.

Downstairs at the bar, Zen Popko, a 64-year-old limousine driver, recalled White as “soft-spoken and well-spoken,” and committed to the team.

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“Any time he was interviewed, he was never boastful,” said Popko.

The Celtics’ teams White played on during the 1970s seemed to have great chemistry, said Popko, and fed off coach Tom Heinsohn’s energy. Those squads had a blue-collar toughness, he said, and the city responded to that.

“The Celtics were electric,” he said. “They were hard to conquer.”

At another bar, Alex LePore, a 59-year-old chief financial officer, said he remembered White’s game being “quick and creative.” White, he said, was a joy to watch.

“Back before social media, when you only had three channels, everyone knew who Jo Jo White was,” said LePore. “He was the glue on whatever team he was on.”

The nostalgic barroom discussion about White triggered a stream of sports memories for LePore, who has an apartment in Boston but grew up in Pittsburgh.

White, said LePore, would have been able to hold his own in today’s NBA. He was fluid, athletic, and had good court vision, he said. He then searched for an analogous guard currently playing, ultimately suggesting Chris Paul of the Rockets. LePore’s colleague, Jim DiGiorgio, seated at the next bar stool, countered with former Celtic Isaiah Thomas.

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“That’s probably more accurate,” said LePore.

DiGiorgio, 55, grew up in New Jersey as a Knicks fan. He recalled White as “someone who loved to run the point.”

“He was a pain in the [butt],” he joked.

At another bar near the Garden, Shanon Duffy said she called her mother when she heard the news of White’s death.

Duffy, a 28-year-old who works for the US Department of Veterans Affairs and lives in Reading, said her family instilled Celtics fandom in her from a young age.

Duffy tries to catch every Celtics game she can, and she picked up anecdotes about White’s career through trivia and team lore. Without looking at her phone, she knew he played on the 1968 US Olympic team that won a gold medal and that he played nine seasons in Boston, winning two NBA titles.

Her mother, Francis, played high school basketball in Rhode Island and modeled parts of her game after White, she said.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Duffy, “It’s a tragedy.”


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.