Chris Ford

Last updated

Chris Ford
Personal information
Born(1949-01-11)January 11, 1949
Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedJanuary 17, 2023(2023-01-17) (aged 74)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school Holy Spirit (Absecon, New Jersey)
College Villanova (1969–1972)
NBA draft 1972 / Round: 2 / Pick: 17th overall
Selected by the Detroit Pistons
Playing career1972–1982
Position Shooting guard
Coaching career1983–2004
Career history
As player:
19721978 Detroit Pistons
19781982 Boston Celtics
As coach:
19831990 Boston Celtics (assistant)
19901995 Boston Celtics
19961998 Milwaukee Bucks
19992000 Los Angeles Clippers
2001–2003 Brandeis University
2003–2004 Philadelphia 76ers (assistant)
2004 Philadelphia 76ers (interim)
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As head coach:

As assistant coach:

Career statistics
Points 7,314 (9.2 ppg)
Assists 2,719 (3.4 apg)
Steals 1,152 (1.6 spg)
Stats   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg at
Stats at

Christopher Joseph Ford (January 11, 1949 – January 17, 2023) was an American professional basketball player and head coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nicknamed "the Mad Bomber", [1] [2] Ford played most of his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons, before finishing his playing career with the Boston Celtics. In the Celtics' season opener in 1979–80, he was credited with making the first official three-point shot in NBA history. He won an NBA championship with the Celtics in 1981.


Between 1990 and 1995, Ford was the head coach of the Celtics, and proceeded to coach for three other NBA franchises for various stints until 2004.

Amateur career

A 6-foot-5 (1.96 m) guard from Atlantic City, Ford played high school basketball at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, New Jersey. [3] He averaged a Cape-Atlantic League record 33 ppg as a senior, and finished with 1,507 career points, which as of 2021, was still a school record. [4] Ford then signed to play at Villanova University, sat out his first year as required at the time, and then quickly established himself, averaging 16.1 ppg, helping the team advance to the regional finals of the 1970 NCAA tournament, losing to St. Bonaventure 97–74, with the Bonnies led by 26 points by Bob Lanier, a future teammate of Ford with the Detroit Pistons. [5]

Villanova and Ford continued their winning ways, advancing in the 1971 NCAA tournament to the championship game, losing to UCLA and legendary coach John Wooden 68–62. [6] Ford averaged 13.8 ppg on the season. In his senior year, Ford averaged a stellar 17.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, again helping lead Villanova to the 1972 NCAA tournament, with the team losing in the regional semi-final to Penn 78–67. [7] For his college career, Ford averaged 15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, leading Villanova to three consecutive NCAA appearances. [8]

Professional career

Ford was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the 1972 NBA draft (2nd round, 17th overall pick). Ford established himself as a defensive oriented regular for Detroit, helping lead the team to four straight post-season berths (1974–1977). His averages peaked in the tumultuous 1976-77 Detroit Pistons season with 12.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, and 7th in steals (179) in the NBA. [9]

In October 1978, he was traded by Detroit with a 1981 2nd round draft pick to the Boston Celtics for Earl Tatum. He averaged a career high with 15.6 ppg in the 1978–79 season [9] In 1979–80, the NBA introduced the three-point field goal to its game. In the Celtics' season opener against the Houston Rockets on October 12, 1979, Ford made a 3-pointer with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter. Three days later, an NBA press release credited him with making the first 3-pointer in league history, due to his game being "the first games according to start time". Kevin Grevey of the Washington Bullets made a 3-pointer the same night against the Philadelphia 76ers, but his game started 35 minutes later than Ford's. It is not clear the exact time their respecitve baskets occurred. [10] In 1980–81, the Celtics won the 1981 NBA Finals. [9] He retired after the 1981–82 season with 10-year career averages of 9.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, and 1.6 steals per game, remaining in the top 100 for his career in steals per game. [9]

Ford also appeared as a member of the Detroit team in the fantasy basketball comedy film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh in 1979 alongside Pistons teammates Bob Lanier, Eric Money, John Shumate, Kevin Porter, and Leon Douglas. [11]

Coaching career

Ford became an assistant coach with Boston, first under KC Jones and then Jimmy Rodgers, helping the Celtics to NBA championships in 1984 and 1986. After Rodgers dismissal, Ford was promoted to head coach for the Celtics (1990–95, 222–188, .541), and then dismissed, replaced by former Pistons and Celtics teammate ML Carr. Ford then coached Milwaukee Bucks (1996–98, 69–95, .421), the Los Angeles Clippers (1999–2000, 20–75, .211), and finally the Philadelphia 76ers (2003–04, 12–18, .400). [12] Ford coached the Eastern All-Stars in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game. In addition to coaching at the professional level, Ford spent two seasons (2001–2003) as head basketball coach at Brandeis University, a Division III school in Waltham, Massachusetts. [13] [14]

Ford then became a scout for the 76ers and was also a coaching consultant for the New York Knicks. [15]


On January 17, 2023, six days after his 74th birthday, Ford died at a hospital in Philadelphia from complications of a heart attack he had earlier in the month. [16] [17]

Career statistics

  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage 3P%  3-point field goal percentage FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game APG  Assists per game SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game PPG Points per game Bold Career high
  Won an NBA championship  * Led the league


Source: [18]

Regular season

1972–73 Detroit 7420.8.479.6453.62.66.4
1973–74 Detroit 82*25.1.444.7403.
1974–75 Detroit 8024.5.474.6633.
1975–76 Detroit 8226.8.426.7223.
1976–77 Detroit 8231.0.476.7713.
1977–78 Detroit 8231.5.481.7343.
1978–79 Detroit 336.0.371.8756.
1978–79 Boston 7833.7.474.7533.
1979–80 Boston 737329.0.465.427.7542.
1980–81 Boston 827533.2.443.330.7362.
1981–82 Boston 765320.9.418.317.6961.


1974 Detroit 518.8.471.6673.
1975 Detroit 327.3.5454.
1976 Detroit 930.7.407.8004.
1977 Detroit 333.7.409.5566.
1980 Boston 931.0.430.154.8002.
1981 Boston 1729.8.452.280.6002.
1982 Boston 1211.5.476.286.7141.

Coaching record

Regular seasonGGames coachedWGames wonLGames lostW–L %Win–loss %
PlayoffsPGPlayoff gamesPWPlayoff winsPLPlayoff lossesPW–L %Playoff win–loss %

Source: [19]

Boston 1990–91 825626.6831st in Atlantic1156.455Lost in Conf. Semi-finals
Boston 1991–92 825131.6221st in Atlantic1064.600Lost in Conf. Semi-finals
Boston 1992–93 824834.5852nd in Atlantic413.350Lost in first round
Boston 1993–94 823250.3905th in AtlanticMissed Playoffs
Boston 1994–95 823547.4273rd in Atlantic413.350Lost in first round
Milwaukee 1996–97 823349.4027th in CentralMissed Playoffs
Milwaukee 1997–98 823646.4397th in CentralMissed Playoffs
L.A. Clippers 1998–99 50941.1807th in PacificMissed Playoffs
L.A. Clippers 1999–00 451134.244(fired)
Philadelphia 2003–04 301218.4005th in AtlanticMissed Playoffs

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  1. Former NBA Player, Coach Chris Ford Dies at 74
  2. Who hit the first three-pointer in NBA history?
  3. "Assistant Ford promoted to replace Ayers". ESPN. February 10, 2004. Archived from the original on October 21, 2020. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  4. "Chris Ford, a Holy Spirit basketball legend, inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame". The Press of Atlantic City. April 14, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  5. "Villanova vs. St. Bonaventure Box Score, March 14, 1970". Sports Reference . Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  6. "Villanova vs. UCLA Box Score, March 27, 1971". Sports Reference . Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  7. "Villanova vs. Pennsylvania Box Score, March 16, 1972". Sports Reference . Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  8. "Chris Ford College Stats". Sports Reference . Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Chris Ford Stats". Sports Reference . Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  10. Ganguli, Tania (December 15, 2021). "He Thought He Made N.B.A. History. All He Got Was 3 Points". The New York Times . Archived from the original on March 18, 2022. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  11. "Director of 'Fish that Saved Pittsburgh' had to get pro stars to show emotion". Marquee. The Kokomo Tribune . Associated Press. November 24, 1979. p. 4. Retrieved May 18, 2022 via
  12. "Chris Ford". Sports Reference . Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  13. "Ford to return to Brandeis for another year". October 9, 2002. Archived from the original on April 3, 2022. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  14. "What the Hell Happened to... Chris Ford?". April 25, 2013. Archived from the original on May 19, 2021. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  15. May, Peter (April 22, 2013). "Woodson Mentor-Turned-Consultant Has Celtic Roots as Player and Coach". The New York Times . Archived from the original on July 24, 2018. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  16. Hightower, Kyle (January 18, 2023). "Chris Ford, champ as player, coach with Celtics, dies at 74". Associated Press News. Retrieved January 18, 2023.
  17. McGarry, Michael (January 18, 2023). "Holy Spirit grad, basketball great Chris Ford dies". Press of Atlantic City.
  18. "Chris Ford (playing)". Basketball Reference . Sports Reference . Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  19. "Chris Ford (coaching)". Sports Reference . Retrieved January 19, 2023.