Popeye Jones leads Nuggets to NBA Championship

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Dresden native Ronald “Popeye” Jones can add NBA championship to his long list of basketball career highlights after he helped lead the Denver Nuggets to their first championship ring. Jones is assistant coach for the Nuggets.

By Thomas Sellers

MVP Regional Sports Writer

Dresden native Ronald “Popeye” Jones has reached the pinnacle of his profession when the Denver Nuggets clinched the 2023 NBA championship with a 94-89 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Finals Tuesday night. 

Jones, a Nugget assistant coach, celebrated alongside Head Coach Michael Malone, players like Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Finals MVP Nikola Jokic. 

Jones’ journey to his first championship ring started on the hardwood of Dresden High School. The 1988 graduate and pride of Weakley County only had two scholarship offers after wrapping up his Lions’ career. 

Jones headed up to Murray, Ky., and rewrote the history books for Murray State University. Soon the name “Popeye” Jones was making headlines across the nation as he became a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection. Jones earned Player of the Year honors in 1991 and 1992. He was also named Athlete of the Year for those seasons for the OVC.

Popeye’s success at Murray State as the all-time leading rebounder and top 5 in career scoring led to him reaching the NBA as a player.

Selected in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets in the Second Round as pick No. 41, Jones knew he had to earn his spot in the Association. 

Jones survived that preseason to play 11 years in the league as a power forward with Dallas, Toronto, Boston, Washington, Golden State and even the Nuggets. 

His best season was in 1995–96 with the Dallas Mavericks when he averaged 11.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while making 14 of 39 three-point attempts. 

The previous campaign, Jones averaged 10.3 points and 10.6 rebounds. He holds NBA career per game averages of 7.0 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Jones dropped 3,726 points and grabbed 3,981 rebounds in the NBA. 

Jones hung up his high-tops for dress shoes and headed to the sideline as an assistant coach in 2010 with the then New Jersey Nets. By 2013, Jones was working on the staff of the Indiana Pacers, spending seven years in the Midwest. 

Before joining the Nuggets, Jones made a stop with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Some of the highlights of Jones’ basketball life are Class A Mr. Basketball for Tennessee, NCAA rebounding leader in 1992, two-time OVC Player of the Year, Murray State No. 54 jersey retirement, MSU’s Player of the Century and now NBA Champion. 

Jones was inducted into the inaugural class of the Weakley County Sports Hall of Fame in 2021.

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