By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 1: December 9, 1976 – The Braves trade Bob McAdoo and Tom McMillen to the New York Knicks for John Gianelli and a reported $3 million.
The NBA’s Braves never lived up to the standards of their expansion counterparts, the NHL’s Sabres, during their eight years of coexistence. The basketball team couldn’t match the hockey team on or off their respective playing fields. The Braves went through several owners and players, while the Sabres were the picture of stability and success.
However, there was one good reason to watch pro basketball in Buffalo for several years. Bob McAdoo was ahead of his time – a big man who could shoot from the outside, rebound with taller men, and run the court. Those qualities helped him become the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1974-75.
McAdoo’s contract was set to expire at the end of 1976-77, and negotiations had hit a roadblock. The situation became complicated and messy, and it was finally resolved in way that hurt the Braves badly. McAdoo and Tom McMillen, a first-round draft choice, were dealt to the Knicks for journeyman center John Gianelli and a reported $3 million.
McAdoo was never really replaced. He remained a top scorer for the rest of the decade, but injuries eventually took a toll on his play. He became something of a role player with the Lakers, winning two NBA championships in Los Angeles. McMillen never averaged more than 10 points per game, and was briefly a Congressman. Gianelli spent less than a full season in Buffalo before going to Milwaukee in a trade.
Most of the team’s credibility went out the door with McAdoo, and it seemed a matter of time before the franchise would move elsewhere from the day the trade was announced. Frantic changes were completed to the roster for the next year and a half, all without producing anything close to a winner. The team finally ended up in San Diego.
When the Braves left, the NBA was gone from Western New York for the foreseeable future. The McAdoo deal was the biggest step toward that departure, and that’s why it ranks as the biggest trade in Buffalo’s sports history.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB. And thanks for reading this series for the past 100 days.)