Sometimes called the "People's Champion", he is one of the most popular players in the history of snooker. Amongst the most naturally gifted of players, he continued along the path set by Alex Higgins with his aggressive, risky and almost 'exhibitionist' style in the early 1980s. White is widely regarded as the finest player never to have won the World Snooker Championship, having been a runner-up on six occasions. However, his consistency and dominating style of play have been on the wane for some years and with his first-round defeat in the 2006 world championships White has now dropped out of the world's top-32 player rankings. This means that he will have to pre-qualify for next year's championships which, according to his post-match interview, he is determined to do.
White has won ten ranking tournaments, including the British Open (1987 and 1992) and the UK Championship (1992). However, since he first entered the World Championship in 1981 that title has remained elusive, despite him reaching the final six times (1984, 1990-1994).
He also led Higgins 15-14 in the 1982 semi-final, was up 59-0 in the penultimate frame and a red and colour away from the final. However, he eventually succumbed to Higgins' relentless pressure. In the 1984 final he trailed Steve Davis 12-4 at the end of the first day's play, only to make a determined comeback and eventually lose by a margin of only 18-16. In 1992, he led Stephen Hendry 14-8 and needed only to pot one more red to win the 23rd frame. However, he missed a good chance and lost it and the next nine frames to go down 18-14.
Arguably his best chance came in the 1994 final, the third consecutive contest against Hendry and his fourth overall versus the Scotsman. In the final frame, White looked set to win the title but missed an easy black off its spot. Hendry then took the easy points available and won yet another crown.
Despite the great entertainment he provided, White had a tendency to lose concentration under pressure and miss simple shots, particularly at critical moments. But for these, the record books could have been very different. This image of "nearly man" has fuelled the affection in which he is held, particularly when compared to Steve Davis in the 80s and his nemesis Stephen Hendry in the 90s, both of whom played excellent, if not quite so entertaining, snooker.
White is one of only five players to have completed a maximum 147 break at the World Championships (1992) - the others are Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Cliff Thorburn and Mark Williams.
White's personal life and health have both come under public scrutiny: he has suffered from testicular cancer and had to have one testicle removed, later making a full recovery. He has also had an unsuccessful hair transplant (and now wears a wig), and has had minor trouble with the law over alcohol and drugs. Even so, his contribution to snooker has been substantial and he was awarded an MBE in 1999. Ironically, three of the five other snooker players to have been awarded the MBE (Steve Davis, John Parrott and Stephen Hendry) are the same three who have beaten him in the World Championship finals.
In February 2005, after hearing of a sponsorship deal from HP Foods, makers of brown sauce, whereby the HP logo will be present on the brown ball at all major tournaments, White announced that he had changed his name by deed poll to 'James Brown', and would wear brown clothing with a blue bow tie when competing at the upcoming Masters tournament. World Snooker subsequently announced that as he had registered for the tournament as Jimmy White, he would be referred to by that name during it, and the press has continued to call him Jimmy White after the tournament.
Jimmy White has been giving his name to computer and video snooker and pool games. Most recently, White has signed up with the online billiards website www.Play89.com.
White was formerly married to Maureen and has five children. He currently lives in Epsom and supports Chelsea F.C. A big fan of poker, White won the second Poker Million Tournament, in which Steve Davis was one of his competitors.