by Tim Wendel
Some players only see the world through a prism of their own statistics and accomplishments. Others have no choice but to be a part of team – to be a spokesman for something larger than themselves.
That’s how it was with Randy Smith, who died unexpectedly last night of a heart attack. He was the spokesman for the old Buffalo Braves. He not only realized that but came to embrace that role.
“Sometimes I felt like I was the last of the Mohicans,” Smith told me during the writing of Buffalo, Home of the Braves. “But I was the guy who was there pretty much from the beginning to the end. I guess you could say I became the institutional memory of that team.”
Nobody loved the Braves and nobody loved Buffalo more than Smith. After starring as a soccer player at Buffalo State, the basketball Braves drafted him in the seventh round of 1971 draft. After working on his jump shot and then thrilling fans with his two-handed slam dunks in the preseason, he surprisingly made the NBA team. From there he continued to raise his game until he became an All-Star. Randy came off the bench to score 27 points in the 1978 NBA All-Star Game (the Braves’ last year in Buffalo) and took home the MVP award. He played 12 seasons in the NBA – a record 906 games – and never missed a game.
After his playing days were more, Randy eventually became the executive host at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Sometimes when I’d call, trying to sort out something for the book, he couldn’t talk right away. “Got some big clients in town,” he’d say. “Try me back.”
But when the high-rollers had gone home, Randy liked nothing more than to talk about the Braves and the old days with Dr. Jack Ramsay, Ernie D. and his good friend Bob McAdoo.
“He was the one who remembered all of our stories,” McAdoo says. “He was the best of the Braves.”