Confusion still abounds with Celtics swap

by Tim Wendel, author of Buffalo Home of the Braves

Welcome back the 1980s, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics return to the NBA Finals. But Braves fans know that the “wayback machine” can lead to the 1970s. As much as we rooted against the Celtics in those classic playoff matches at the old Aud, the final injustice for the Braves was seeing the team swapped with the Celtics after the team’s final season in 1978. One reincarnation headed west to become the San Diego Clippers, while the new Celtics, headed by former Braves owner John Y. Brown, stayed in Boston and went on to greatness, thanks in large part to landing the draft rights for Larry Bird.

As I watched the Celtics oust the Detroit Pistons last night, I remembered an interview I did with Randy Smith for Buffalo, Home of the Braves. Smith was the guy caught in the middle of the most confusing team swap in sports history. Here’s how he remembers that bizarre period:


“Once John Young Brown got his hands on the team, Buffalo was the last place he wanted to have it play. He and I used to talk a lot. He’d tell me about the possibility of the team going to Dallas, San Diego, Kentucky — it was inevitable that the team was going to leave the Buffalo area. Then I woke up one morning to hear that he had made a swap of entire teams.

“I was home in Buffalo. Somebody called me from the Braves’ office to tell me the news. … I started to get checks from the Boston Celtics for deferred payments, even though I was going west to play for this new team, the Clippers. I didn’t know where to expect my checks to come from, but, you know, you don’t care as long as they don’t bounce.”

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