Caldwell Jones, longtime pro center, dies at golf course

Caldwell Jones played 17 years in the ABA and NBA, including a stint with the 76ers.

Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images

Hours before Caldwell Jones died on Sunday, the retired ABA/NBA center was with his family, doing what they did every Sunday, writes John Canzano at Following church in the suburban Atlanta town where they lived, the Jones family — Caldwell, wife Vanessa and daughters Zori (21), Maya (18) and Leah (13) — would go to brunch.

At that meal, electronic devices were banned and the family would conduct an exercise that might include a summary of the day’s sermon or the writing of short essays on a topic of Vanessa’s choosing. On this day, she asked everyone to answer this question:

"If you could do one thing, and only one thing, every day for the rest of your life, what would you pick?"

As it turned out, Jones gave a sports answer to that question.

"Caldwell had never been much of a golfer," Vanessa said. "He’d discovered the game late in life. But you know, he wrote that he would play golf if that’s the only thing he could do. That’s what he would do every day for the rest of his life."


And that’s what Caldwell Jones, 64, was doing when he suffered a massive heart attack on Sunday — taking some practice swings on the golf course near his home.

"Too sudden," his wife said, "he was fine in church and at brunch. Just a normal day. No reason to think anything was up. I miss him so much."

Jones played for eight teams in 17 pro seasons. Once nearly a 20-point-a-game scorer in the ABA, he became a role player after entering the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, who had the likes of Julius Erving and George McGinnis to take care of the offense. Instead, Jones mostly played defense and rebounded, twice being named first-team All-Defensive with the Sixers and regularly ranking among the league leaders in blocked shots.