1972 All-American Jim Chones scored 952 points and grabbed 583 rebounds leading Marquette to a 49-1 record during his career. In 1971 he helped lead MU to a 28-1 record and in 1971-72 Chones led Marquette to a 21-0 start, but family came first so he declared for the ABA Draft. A first round pick by the Knicks, Chones had a 10-year career in the ABA & NBA, winning a title with the 1980 Lakers.
Chones and his wife are the proud parents of daughters Kareeda 28 (Marquette University grad) now working for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA in Sales/Marketing, Kaayla 23, (North Carolina State University grad) and a WNBA draftee, 04, (Washington Mystics), and triplet sons, Kameron, (attends Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island), and Kendall and Kyle, (both are attending Colgate University in Hamilton, New York).
Marquettehoops.com: Can you tell us what you have been up to lately?
Chones: Oh, just a few things. My primary job is the Sports and League Division Coordinator for a town in Bedford Heights, Ohio. I put together all the recreation leagues for the adults and youth.
Another thing that has surfaced recently is the J. Chones Company, which is a part of the greater Cleveland Urban Youth Education Initiative. We design cultural arts and math and science programs to give kids opportunities that they otherwise would not get. It is cross cultural: White, Black, and Appalachian…anyone from an urban area that is in need. This company started three years ago.
I am also writing social programs that some companies have actually bought into and are now implementing. Ya know, sports just doesn’t do enough anymore. We aren’t saving enough kids. We need to motivate and improve these kids by giving them even more opportunities.
Finally, I have compiled a collection of seventy short stories that I have written, some of them about memories from Marquette. I am looking to get them published next year.
Marquettehoops.com: Why did you pick Marquette and what was your recruitment like?
Chones: Quiet honestly, the decision was pretty easy. It came down to three different things.
First, Al came to my home in Racine to start my recruitment and at the end of the day, Al said to my father, “If Jimmy does what I tell him to do, he will be a pro, and take you out of this (the house we were in).” I thought that was a good start.
The other school that was hard after me was the University of Wisconsin. They actually used the governor as a recruiting tool and he took me out to breakfast after I visited some buildings on campus. The thing about it was, we were eating eggs together and he seemed really bored with my conversation. He was not even paying attention to me or anything I had to say. I was really offended by that.
Finally, George Thompson told me something one day that I would never forget. I was visiting with him in McCormick Hall on a November night. I asked him, “George, what did Marquette give you?” He said, “Jimmy, Marquette didn’t give me anything. If you come here though, and work hard, they can give get you a degree, and you will get even more opportunities.”
Marquettehoops.com: John Dodds interviewed Al McGuire seven or eight years ago on the radio. In the interview, Al talked about the car ride back to Racine you and Al shared before you turned pro. Your team was #2 in the nation at the time and you were going to the ABA? Can you talk about what that was like?
Chones: Well, I was pretty emotional about leaving and I asked him, “Coach, do I have to leave?” Al says to me, “Ya Jimmy, you gotta leave, it’s a lot of money and it’s a great opportunity.” I told him that I didn’t think I was ready and you know what Al tells me? “Jimmy, I don’t care and it doesn’t make a difference. You gotta go.” You see, Al had no fear. He wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion or stand up against anything or any institution. There will never be another Al McGuire or a revolutionary like he was. He walked to a different beat. He was a product of his time. He saw the world not as people wanted to see it, but as it really was. We all benefited from knowing him. Everybody that Al has met, he influenced. He gave us the courage to stand up for who we wanted to be and who we were.
Marquettehoops.com: Talk about the bumble bee uniforms? Were you proud to put that on everyday?
Chones: (Laughter) They were different, I am a product of the sixties, you know, civil rights, hippies and open housing, and I am pretty grounded in that. I haven’t changed too much. Those uniforms were so wild that they were outlawed after that. It mesmerized teams, believe it or not. Teams would be running up and down the court and they would see this flashy, wild pattern on the jerseys. It was strategy and you know Al, he was just trying to get an edge.
Marquettehoops.com: How did George Frazier, of all people, make that buzzer-beater against Memphis?
Chones: The first thing you need to know is that George Frazier was the most athletic guy I have ever played basketball with…that includes the pros. He was 6-5, 220 lbs, and had a forty inch vertical. He could handle the ball against anyone but the only thing he did not have was a jumper. That is the only thing that prevented him from playing professionally. The game was nationally televised. They were triple teaming me so the last shot was supposed to go to Allie McGuire or Bob Lackey. George got it and shot a mid ranger and the damn thing goes in. We were so surprised, the guy had never made a jumper and people now wanted to know who he was. We were a young team who played in a hostile place in the South and we didn’t get a call that entire game. George made a big shot; there is no doubt about it.
Marquettehoops.com: Was Bob Lackey as mean as he looked?
Chones: He would whoop your (behind), but the ladies loved him. Oh, he was a southern gentleman when it came to dealing with women. He had this huge afro, a muscular frame, big brown eyes and he was solid black. Those ladies loved Bob. Bob was my roommate during my second year and we stayed over at the Catholic Towers. After awhile, Al heard about all the women coming home to our place. I mean, I would come home and I would be locked out of our place half the time because he would be having parties with the girls. Finally, instead of moving Bob out, Al sent me back to campus and Bob kept the place in the Catholic Towers. He was a great guy.
Marquettehoops.com: Can you talk about the fight with South Carolina and your tussle with 7’1’’ Danny Traylor?
Chones: For starters, the two coaches, Al and Frank McGuire, didn’t like each other very much. You know what it is like when two Irish guys don’t like each other, they don’t hold back. As for the game, we didn’t get a call for probably three quarters. They also had a 6-11 left hander who was just the enforcer in the ACC. I think his name was Richert or something. The entire South Carolina team just beat up other teams. Dean Smith even petitioned the league to put an end to it. So they had a huge team. They were very skilled too. There were cheap shots flying during the game like the kind that we would only see on the playground.
I will never forget it. Bob Lackey was on the free throw line and Richert took the ball and threw it at Lackey after he made his first free throw. Immediately after that, Lackey looked at Al and Al didn’t move. He was just sitting on the bench with his legs crossed. We all knew what that meant. Lackey picked the ball up and drilled Richert in the face. All of a sudden, there were people all over the floor and the two teams were fighting.
In the middle of the fight, Danny Traylor looks at me and was probably thinking, “He looks pretty skinny, I’ll go after him.” I actually got the guy pretty good. I popped him right in the chin actually. Soon after that, a security guard from the arena peeled me off of him. This guard opened his jacket and pulled out a gun on me and then, I knew the fight was over. But we whipped the (junk) out of them. The fans kept calling us racial names because we were mostly black and they didn’t have any black players. That was the times, you know? Through all of this, Al was still sitting on the bench with his legs crossed. Al finally got up and took all of us off of the floor and into the locker room. They already had all of our things packed in our bags and instead of staying over night, they told us we were getting out of South Carolina as soon as we could. It was incredible.
Marquettehoops.com: You left Marquette to play professional basketball and became the second student athlete to ever do that…What do you think about all the High Schoolers that are in the NBA now and the new rule that they must attend college for one year?
Chones: I think if they fought it, they could probably get the league to drop it. Based on Sherman Anti-trust laws, someone should be able to get employment if they are qualified. The thing that makes it so acceptable is that the NBA’s political strength is strong. It would take so many years to fight that rule that it would be worth it.
Most of us realize though, these kids aren’t mature enough to survive in the NBA and that is why we don’t fight it. College helps a lot of these young players to mature and calm down with their support systems. There’s nothing like the NBA. There’s a lot of freedom and you make a lot of money.
Marquettehoops.com: Can you talk about some of the honors you have received, including the induction into Marquette’s Hall of Fame and being named the Center for the CLASSIC CLEVELAND CAVS team?
Chones: That stuff comes and goes. I appreciate it. I appreciate the accolades from playing. But I worked hard and that was doing nothing more than you are supposed to do. You were supposed to work hard, you know? I was fortunate to have a great coach in high school and I had Al McGuire. It doesn’t get any better than that. I was a good listener and I did what my coaches said. It really helped my development. I finally was able to go back and get my degree and I have a great life. I have a beautiful wife and my kids are successful. My time at Marquette sent me on a good path.