In the boisterous aftermath of helping his San Diego Toreros clinch an NCAA tournament berth, Rob Jones slapped one of his prominent tattoos, the one with the cross and the name Jones, and pointed to his proud father, Jim Jones Jr., in the stands.
The Toreros had just upset Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference tournament and reach the NCAAs for the fourth time in school history.
Between the freshman forward and his father, though, there was something much deeper going on. Three decades after the mass suicide-murder at Jonestown, it was good to be a Jones.
“The win was great, but when he did that, well, I’m a grumpy 47-year-old man and it brought a tear to my eye,” Jim Jones Jr. said. “Rob has just given me the opportunity to enjoy it again.”
Rob Jones feels no stigma about being the grandson of cult leader Jim Jones, who 30 years ago this November led more than 900 of his followers in a mass suicide in a South American jungle. When road crowds taunt him about drinking Kool-Aid, he turns it into motivation. He speaks openly about his family’s history.
“The reason I do is just to change the Jones name, you know, to keep a good association with the name now,” said Jones.
Simply put, Jim Jones Jr. wouldn’t be alive, and Rob never would have been born, if it weren’t for basketball.
After Jim Jones moved his Peoples Temple from San Francisco to Guyana in the late 1970s, his adopted son and others started a team.
The Jonestown basketball team was playing in a tournament in Georgetown, Guyana, when the cult came to a violent end on Nov. 18, 1978.
“My father wanted us to return when the congressman came back down there,” Jones Jr. said this week from his home in Pacifica, near San Francisco. “In defiance, We said, ‘No.’ We wanted to play basketball. You can see why there was guilt around basketball.”
Jones lost several family members, including his first wife and their unborn child.
“I wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t playing basketball,” he said. “With Robert playing basketball, it really kind of gave me the ability to enjoy the game again.”
I had no idea that Jim Jones had surviving offspring. It’s uplifting to see something good come out of that horrible tragedy. I’ll be rooting for Robert Jones and his San Diego teammates this year.