One word could best describe Jim Cleamons…Winner. Cleamons is a 9X NBA Champion, one as a player and 8 as a coach. Only Phil Jackson has won more. He played collegiately at the Ohio State University, and was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 13th pick of the 1971 NBA draft. He had a nine-year NBA career for four different teams (the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks, and the Washington Bullets). In 1976, Cleamons was selected to the NBA All-Defense 2nd team.
After registering career averages of 18.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game at Ohio State University, Cleamons was selected by the Lakers with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 1971 NBA Draft. As a rookie guard on the legendary 1971-72 Lakers NBA Championship team that won a professional sports record 33 consecutive games, Jim Cleamons served mostly an ancillary role, playing on a team filled with future Hall-of-Famers the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West. After one season with the Lakers, Cleamons was traded for a future draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he played for five seasons. Cleamons spent the next two-and-a-half seasons with the New York Knicks where he was a teammate of Phil Jackson in 1977-78 before finishing the 1979-80 season with Washington. Throughout his NBA journey, Cleamons’ teammates have included Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Lenny Wilkens while he has played under coaches such as Bill Sharman, K.C. Jones, Bill Fitch, Dick Motta and Red Holzman.
Upon his return to Los Angeles 28 years later, Cleamons’ impact has been much more profound, serving as an assistant coach and helping guide the Lakers to five championships in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.
After reuniting prior to the 1999-2000 season with both the Lakers and head coach Phil Jackson, whom he served as an assistant coach under for seven seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Cleamons once again rejoined the Lakers and Jackson for the 2006-07 campaign.
Following his fifth season on the Lakers coaching staff in 2003-04, Cleamons joined the New Orleans Hornets and served as an assistant coach under former Laker Byron Scott for two seasons (2004-06). Prior to both the Hornets and Lakers, Cleamons was a member of the Bulls coaching staff from 1989-96, helping lead Chicago to four NBA titles in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996. In his seven years with Chicago, the Bulls compiled a record of 414-160 (.721).
In May of 1996, Cleamons left the Bulls and was named head coach of the Dallas Mavericks where he stayed for a year-and-a-half, compiling a 28-72 record. Before joining the Lakers staff, Cleamons spent the 1998-99 season as the head coach of the Chicago Condors professional women’s team that played in the now defunct American Basketball League.
Cleamons worked as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1996. He was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks from 1996 to 1997. He was then the head coach of the Chicago Condors of the American Basketball league, a women’s professional basketball league in the mid Nineties. He also served as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. During his tenure with the Lakers, he served as acting head coach while Phil Jackson was absent.
In 2017, Cleamons accepted a coveted position as an assistant coach for the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA) high school boys basketball team.(YULA Roster)
A member of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2008, Cleamons and his wife Cheryl reside in Manhattan Beach with their two daughters, Imani and Rose.