By Caroline Keras
Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster had a special treat when Celtics legend JoJo White visited the Club recently. White was there to talk with Club members, take photos and sign 50 copies of his biography “Make It Count: The Life and Times of Basketball Great JoJo White,” along with the book’s author, Leominster resident and historian Mark Bodanza.
Bodanza, who remembers White’s career well, was thrilled to have the opportunity to write the book for a Celtics great whom he had become friends with over the years.
“It is a distinct honor and privilege to have written JoJo’s book, not only because he was a great player, but is a great man,” he said. White won two championships in 1974 and 1976 as the Celtics point guard, as well as a gold medal as part of the 1968 U.S. Olympic team in Mexico City. He currently serves as Director of Special Projects and Community Relations for the Celtics. The book chronicles everything from White’s 33 points in a triple overtime win against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, which many call the greatest NBA game ever played, to White’s decision to play in the 1968 Olympics despite many African American players boycotting as a result of race issues.
“JoJo loved the game and decided to play none-the-less,” said Bodanza.
As part of his latest job with the Celtics, White often goes around to various organizations to give motivational talks and perpetuate Celtics Pride.
“He talks a lot about life skills, experiences that happen in your life,” said Jim Adams, Vice President and Relationship Manager of Rollstone Bank and Trust, which sponsored the event.
Some of his advice was, of course, sports related.
“When you are not working, someone else is and that it your competition,” said White.
Many of White’s words of wisdom resonate across many aspects of life though.
“Do your best each and every day. You never know who is watching,” said White.
Members of the Club also enjoyed the visit from the former point guard.
“I thought it was moving because he is famous and came down from wherever he was from to talk to us about keeping our dreams alive,” said Club member Hailey Carter, age 13.
They appreciated his message about family as well, hearing about the success of White’s six children.
“He talked a lot about his kids,” said Desiree Velez, age 14.
The idea for the event came when Rollstone Bank purchased 50 of Bodanza’s books, wanting to give them out to the local community. According to Adams, it did not take much searching to obtain the perfect partner.
“JoJo is one of those good guys who has done good work with kids,” he said. “The Boys and Girls Club is a great audience.”
One of the greatest reminders that White could give Club members, however, came right at the start of his speech.
“We are counting on you to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.