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The Buffalo Braves were a professional basketball team that played in the NBA between 1970 and 1978. The team was based at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and they wore a black, white, orange and Columbus blue strip. The franchise is still in existence today in the form of the Los Angeles Clippers.
How did the Braves Start up?
In 1969, with the budding NBA eager to grow, the city of Buffalo, alongside Portland and Cleveland was awarded a franchise. Initially the franchise was given to a group of investors headed by Peter Crotty and Phillip Ryan, but they ran into problems and passed it onto businessman Paul Snyder. The new team was given the nickname “Braves” due to the Native American heritage in the Buffalo area. Dolph Schayes was picked as the team’s first coach and Eddie Donovan would be the general manager.
The Buffalo Braves in Competition
The Braves’ first game was a home win over fellow expansion team Cleveland Cavaliers. They however lost the next nine fixtures and eventually finished last in the Atlantic division with a 22-60 record. They replicated that exact record the following year sticking to the basement of the division standings. In 1992/73 season, the Braves finished third in the division but with a worse record, 21-61 and missed out on the playoffs. The following season, Center Bob McAdoo scored an average of 30.6 ppg helping the Braves to a 42-40 record that put them in third place and earned them the first taste of playoff basketball. They met the Boston Celtics to whom they lost in six games.
They climbed to second in 1974/75 after recording a solid 49-33. In the playoffs, the Braves pushed the Washington Bullets all the way to game 7 which they lost 115-96 to end their hopes of progress. They returned to the payoffs again in 1975/76 after finishing with a 46-36 record in regular season. The Braves beat the Philadelphia 76ers in three games and in the second round they were again unlucky to meet the Boston Celtics who were in unforgiving form. They again lost to the Celtics in 6 games. The next season amid ownership change and massive player sales the team finished fourth with a 30-52 record. They finished fourth again in 1977/78 with a 27-55 record that saw them miss the playoffs again. This was to be the last season in Buffalo as the Braves moved soon after the season concluded.
The Braves’ Most Notable Moments
Although not a popular move with Buffalo fans, the 1977 purchase of the team underlined John Brown’s shrewd business dealings. Brown bought the team from Snyder for $6.2 million with a clause that would see the latter receive money from player sales to reduce the purchase cost for Brown. Brown immediately started selling players including Moses Malone and Bob McAdoo.
This strategy, while severely depleting the Braves charges, would see Brown pay virtually nothing for the team. Brown then hatched his next plot, a severely lopsided deal that would see him acquire the Boston Celtics from Irv Levin in exchange for the Braves. Brown owns the successful Celtics franchise to this day while Levin struggled to get his San Diego Clippers team going.
The Braves had mixed fortunes when it came to drafting and trading. On the one hand they had players like McAdoo and DiGregorio who they acquired as rookies and went on to shine for the team. On the other hand are players like future Hall of Famers Nate Archibald and Moses Malone who the Braves passed on during the rookie draft or gave away too quickly and were left to rue what could have been.
The Buffalo Braves Most Notable Players
Bob McAdoo played for the Braves from 1972 to1977. After a breakthrough 1972/73 season in which he won Rookie of the Year with 18.0 ppg, he led the league in scoring three seasons in a row with more than 30 points per game.
Ernie DiGregorio joined the Braves as a rookie in 1973. He averaged 15.2 points per game in 1973/74 season earning Rookie of the Year. During the 1976/77 season, he made a then NBA record 94.5% free throw accuracy. This was in addition to another NBA record of 25 assists in a single game in 1974 which he shares with Nate McMillan.
Other notable players who featured for the Braves include Tiny Archibald, Jack Ramsay and Adrian Dantley.
What Happened to the Buffalo Braves?
In May 1978, the Braves cut short their lease for the Memorial Auditorium since season ticket sales failed to reach the set goal of 4500. Then team owner John Brown who had bought the team from Snyder in 1977 negotiated a deal with Boston Celtics owner Irv Levin which would see the two owners swap franchises. Levin had a desire to own a team in his native state of California and this worked in Brown’s favor. The NBA voted 21-1 to approve Levin’s proposed relocation of the Braves to San Diego. After the move, the team was renamed San Diego Clippers.