Did you know Moses Malone was a Clipper?


Or Buffalo Brave for the technically correct.

But whether you want to refer to the team by it’s newest name or it’s first, one thing remains constant: Hall of Fame center Moses Malone was once apart of the franchise — I found this out while digging for statistics for another post.

The time period with the franchise was short: following two seasons in the ABA (American Basketball Association for the young folks), Malone transitioned into the NBA in 1976 thanks to the NBA-ABA merger. Without a team as the Spirits of St. Louis were left behind in the merger, Malone was selected in a draft of players left over from the ABA by the Portland Trail Blazers, where he’d never play a game; before the start of the regular season, the Trail Blazers, to cut costs, would trade Malone to the Clippers, where he’d only play two games (or six total minutes) before being traded to the Houston Rockets.

From there the rest his history.

From 1977-78 to 1987-88, Malone would emerge as one of the best NBA centers in the league, and, eventually, in league history, averaging 24.6 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks over the time period. In between the ’77 and ’88, Malone would be voted to 10 consecutive All-Star appearances, win three Most Valuable Player Awards, named All-NBA eight times and All-Defensive twice, and make three NBA Finals appearances, finally winning in in 1983 when teamed up with Julius Irving in Philadelphia, sweeping the Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-led Los Angeles Lakers; Malone was named Finals MVP with averages of 25.8 points, 18 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks.

With many Hall of Fame players coming through Malone’s final years in the NBA and after, his place in all-time standings have been changed since retirement but that doesn’t stop the center from sitting pretty for fans to see how he dominated the game: as of now, Malone is 12th in career games played (1329), 8th in career points (27409), 5th in career rebounds (16212), 1st in career offensive rebounds (6731 — the next closest is Robert Parish at 4598), 25th in career PER (22.31), and is one of eight players in NBA history with at least three Most Valuable Player awards.

Oddly enough, among the mass NBA fanbase, Malone remains an underrated center, often forgotten as the likes of Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell are mentioned.

Now, let’s play some “fantasy” basketball.

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  • I know little of the Buffalo Braves franchise, how the players meshed, and how it played out (outside of standings), but one things for certain: all Malone needed on his eventual path to greatness was playing time. During Malone’s brief time with the Clippers, playing time wasn’t something the Braves could easily offer as Bob McAdoo, former MVP, was the starting center and   … At the time, the Braves’ coaching staff didn’t know leading scorer in McAdoo would be traded in February, for contract/team selling reasons. Had they known, they’d have likely kept Malone. In this alternate universe, the Braves know McAdoo will be traded and keep Malone, giving the franchise the star it sorely lacked in the ’70s and ’80s. Does this lead to a championship? That is unclear. Maybe the franchise manages a way to keep Adrian Dantley instead of trading the big-time scorer to Indiana and runs off a Big 3 of Dantley, Malone, and Randy Smith, competing with notable 1980 dynasties (Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, etc.) through the decade. Who knows, but that’s why this was described as the fantasy portion of the article.

    Instead, Malone — and Dantley for the matter — succeed away from the Braves, and the franchise, who’d move to San Diego in 1978 and Los Angeles in 1984, would go 15 years in between playoff appearances.

    For what it’s worth, in doing research on Malone’s stint with the Braves, I read the franchise traded the center to save money. Sound familiar?

    Ah well. It’s fun to dream though, right?

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