The LA Clippers are one of the two only teams in the NBA to not have retired a former player’s jersey (excluding the league-wide retirement of Bill Russell’s No. 6). This may lead to questions from fans regarding the jersey retirement of players who played for Buffalo, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
The Clippers got their start in Buffalo with the expansion of the Braves in 1970. They did not last very long as they moved in 1978 becoming the San Diego Clippers. Buffalo and San Diego are both integral parts of the franchise’s history. The struggles they faced ultimately paved the way for the birth of the LA Clippers when former owner, Donald Sterling, controversially moved the team from San Diego to LA.
Let’s start with Buffalo Braves legend Bob McAdoo. In his time with the Braves, McAdoo wore #11. He played for the Braves from 1972 – 1976 after he was selected 2nd overall. In 334 games with the Braves, McAdoo averaged 28.2 points per game, 12.7 rebounds per game, 2.4 blocks per game, and 1.1 steals per game.
Bob McAdoo won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1975, making him the only MVP in LA Clippers team history.
Bob McAdoo quickly established himself as an elite scorer as well as a tough defender for the Buffalo Braves, now known as the LA Clippers. Not to mention, the Braves also made three consecutive playoff appearances from 1974 – 1976, in which, McAdoo played a key role in the franchise’s playoff success. He last played in the NBA during the 1985-86 season for the Philadelphia 76ers. His exceptional NBA career led him to an induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
Another former Buffalo Brave to consider for retirement, is the criminally underrated, Randy Smith. Moreover, Smith wore #9 with the Braves and Clippers, as he was also with the organization for eight full seasons.
While playing for the Braves and Clippers, Smith became the organization’s all-time leader in several statistical categories. Furthermore, Smith is the Clippers’ leader in points (12,735), minutes played (24,393 minutes), field goals (5,214), field goal attempts (11,035), and steals (1,072). He also made several contributions to three straight playoff appearances. Smith’s professional career is extremely overlooked as he was never inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Since the Clippers’ relocation to LA, several players will eventually have their jerseys retired. LA Clipper legends, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, deserve to have their jerseys retired as they have placed very high in many different statistical categories.
However, the Clippers’ first jersey retirement should be those of McAddoo and Smith. Having a former Buffalo Braves jersey retired would help connect the Clippers with their origins of a forgotten period in basketball history. This retirement would also shine a bright light on the history, accomplishments, and culture of the organization.