Few great players come from as much seeming ignominy as Randy Smith. He was from eastern Long Island. He went to college at little-heralded Buffalo State. He was taken 107th overall in the 1971 draft by the Buffalo Braves who were just in their 2nd season of existence. Why not take a flier on the local basketball product to get a little fan buzz and attention during the summer and exhibition season? If he makes the team, that’s just gravy and he can warm up the bench.
As it turns out the local product would arguably become the greatest Buffalo Brave in the team’s brief history.
Now make no mistake, Bob McAdoo is the greatest player to put on a Braves uniform, but Smith spent seven seasons with the Braves. He was there before and after McAdoo reigned supreme as MVP and has a tight claim on being the greatest Buffalo Brave.
When it comes to Braves players, Smith ranks 1st in games played (568) and minutes played (20,018) by wide margins. He’s 1st in field goals made and 2nd in free throws made. At 6’3″, the guard is 3rd in total rebounds. He almost doubles up second-place Ernie DiGregorio in assists with 2911 to Ernie D’s 1457. To finish things up he’s 1st in steals with over two-times as many as 2nd-place Gar Heard and is 1st in points scored.
Yep, he’s Mr. Buffalo Brave.
And just for kicks… when it comes to the greater history of the Braves/Clippers franchise, Smith still reigns supreme thanks to his two years of service with the San Diego Clippers, as well. He’s 1st in games, minutes, field goals, assists, steals, and points for the franchise that’s now over 40 years old and who he last played for 30 years ago.
So, how did Smith go from bottom of the draft barrel to the top of the litter? He was a spectacular and outstanding athlete who was tireless and unbreakable. The man set an NBA record of 906 straight games played. He didn’t miss a single contest from 1972 to 1982.
He worked on and greatly improved his jumper from his rookie season. He could leap out the gym and was noted for his springboard dunks. He was a lockdown defender on the ball. He was lightning quick and loved to push the offensive tempo and score before defenses could get set.
His best season came in 1978, the last one the Braves played in Buffalo. Randy averaged nearly 25 points a game and dazzled the league in winning the All-Star Game MVP that February with 27 points on 11-14 shooting.
Unfortunately, playing your best years and nearly your whole career for a team that no longer exists doesn’t do well for your legacy. Especially when that team has morphed into the Clippers. Still, Randy Smith was a terrific player whose memory deserves better. Within these digital walls, Smith’s place in basketball history will be as ironclad and secure as he was during his magnificent 12-year career. That he missed just eight games during his whole career is amazing since he was such a zealous breakneck player.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE3vguvN5sE]
The footage of Smith cooking on the court starts at 1m15s. Also, for more on his career, please read The Lowdown: Randy Smith.
Years Played: 1971 – 1983
All-NBA 2nd Team (1976)
2x All-Star (1976, 1978)
All-Star Game MVP (1978)
NBA – 976 Games
16.7 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 47.0% FG, 78.1% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1971-72 through 1982-83 season)
5th FGs Made, 15th FTs Made
1st Steals, 12th SPG
3rd Assists, 19th APG
2nd Games Played, 3rd Minutes Played