The Buffalo Braves up Next for NBA Expansion?
Hope all my fam at the Sports Talk Social tribe are having a great day. Today I'll be writing about the Buffalo Braves and a potential NBA expansion franchise. I've already discussed how Louisville could host the next NBA expansion city as well as if Vancouver is ready or not.
In 2019 the LA Clippers celebrated their 50th anniversary with the release of a Buffalo Braves throwback jersey Kawhi Leonard and Paul George helped make the jersey a fashionable hit. But before the team was known as the Clippers, the franchise began it's journey two-and-half thousand miles away in the city of Buffalo.
The LA Clippers franchise was originally founded as the Buffalo Braves in 1970 and joined the NBA as one of three expansion franchises along with the Portland Trailblazers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Playing out of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium the Braves got off to a good start by making three consecutive playoff appearances through 1974-76.
Somehow the Braves would become the third preference at the Memorial Auditorium, NHL team the Buffalo Sabres and even college basketball's Canisius Golden Griffins having preferential scheduling arrangements over the Braves.
As early as 1971 the Braves started playing homes games in Canada, playing 16 home games at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto through to 1975 in the hopes of attracting international exposure outside of Western New York. It didn't have much of an impact with the Brave's playing their final few years in the NBA infront of dwindling attendances following poor performances.
After the NBA season finished in 1978 Braves owner John Y. Brown Jr. agreed to swap NBA franchises with California businessman and Boston Celtics owner Irv Levin, marking the beginning of the end for the team in Buffalo. Levin had hopes of owning a franchise in his home state of California but he knew the league wouldn't allow the Celtics to relocate. Ownership of the Braves would make that happen.
NBA owners voted 21-1 in favour of Levin relocating the franchise from Western New York to San Diego to begin the 1978-79 season. Following the move the Braves team name was dropped in favour of the Clippers in reference to the great sailing ships that passed through San Diego Bay.
During the 1981-82 season, Levin then sold the Clippers to Donald Sterling. The franchise failed to make the playoffs in their six years in San Diego, before Sterling sensationally moved the Clippers north to Los Angeles without the approval of the NBA in 1984.
So following the Braves and the Celtics swapping owners, the Braves moving to San Diego and then the bold move to Los Angeles , the Clippers are considered the continuation of the Buffalo Braves following the move from San Diego.
Right? Technically not.
Back in 1978 when John Y. Brown Jr. and Irv Levin swapped franchises and due to differing state regulations in Massachusetts and New York, changing the name of owners was not a legal option. A compromise was reached between owners where only the rosters, coaching staff and the name of the franchises were exchanged. On a technicality, the business entity owning the Boston Celtics moved to San Diego to become the rightful entity that owns the Clippers; so the true successor to the Braves are actually the Boston Celtics. Even former deputy commissioner of the NBA Russ Granik sees it that way.
“My understanding, as best as I can remember, is that the current Celtics team is a successor to the Buffalo Braves’’, Granik said in 2012.
Either way, the NBA doesn't recognise it like that so the legacy of the Clippers is the history of the Buffalo Braves and not the Celtics, one of the most successful franchises in NBA history.
That begs the question whether the Buffalo Braves could return to the NBA as an expansion franchise and build their own legacy.
It's questionable whether the Buffalo market could handle the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, the NFL's Buffalo Bills and an NBA expansion team. Buffalo is ranked the 53rd biggest TV market of all cities with a pro sports team, the second smallest of all markets with only the Green Bay Packers smaller.
Buffalo's a city with rich traditions though, with Buffalonians extremely loyal to the city with an attached and unending bond. The Braves also has the potential to be a strong brand with a striking colour scheme of orange and black with the 'feather B' logo.
The brand has a short but good history, Bob McAdoo, Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley all former Braves players inducted into the Hall of Fame. A Buffalo NBA expansion franchise would no doubt have a deep, passionate and loyal fanbase. The KeyBank Center is also home to the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and with a capacity of almost 20,000 seats, it could host an NBA game tomorrow if it had too.
It may not be the obvious choice, but the Buffalo Braves could very well be up next for an NBA Expansion franchise.
All the way from the Land Down Under, I created Wolfgang Sport as I enjoy writing and watching British and American sports. Started in 2017, I started the blog as a way to connect my passion for sports in the US & UK. Sign up to the newsletter today_ and I'll prove Aussies know more about your own sports than you think._