By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Kawhi Leonard only spent one season as a member of the Toronto Raptors, but you’d have to say he made quite an impact.
Leonard was one of the most important parts of the Raptors’ team that won its first NBA championship this past season. With that ring in his pocket, Leonard listened to offers as a free agent … and opted to head home for Los Angeles, as he signed with the Clippers.
Leonard was immediately saluted for having a noteworthy one-year stop in Toronto, and the question was raised about some of the other great one-and-done performances in pro sports. That led to a question in my mind: Of all of the players who suited up for the Buffalo Braves for only one season, which one had the best year?
I call the list the “one-hit wonders,” since that’s the title for music groups that put one hit on the charts and more or less disappear. So consider this a salute to “? and the Mysterians,” Terry Jacks, the Human Beinz, and Edison Lighthouse – one-hit wonders all.
I made up a list of Buffalo Braves who spent only one season with the team and then moved somewhere else. I only included those who suited up for at least 40 games in a season. What you get is a list of 16 players, skewed toward the final 1977-78 season. That’s because the Braves went through a lot of new players in that campaign, and then moved to San Diego.
In looking through those players and their seasons here, there is a virtual tie at the top. Adrian Dantley played 77 games for the 1976-77 Braves, averaging 20.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.9 points per game. That’s not too much different than what Donny May did in 1970-71, the Braves’ first season. The forward averaged 20.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
Both players were traded after their fine seasons. Dantley went with Mike Bantom to Indiana for Billy Knight, a one-hit wonder himself (53 games, 22.9/7.2/3.0). May and Herm Gilliam – who also made the list (80 games, 11.2/4.2/3.6) – went to Atlanta for Walt Hazzzard.
That covers four of the five Braves who averaged at least 10 points per game in their one season here. The other is Swen Nater, who checked in at 15.5/13.2 (best in the NBA)/2.8 in 1977-78.
There’s no trophy for this award. Dantley went on to a Hall of Fame career, while May never scored in a full season for the rest of his career. You’d have to say May did a better job of following in the “one-hit wonder” spirit in his career, although his performance will be fondly remembered by local fans as a bright spot in a bleak first season in the NBA.
Here are the other names on this list, and they are good for a smile for those who watched them: Howard Komives, Bill Hewitt, Dick Gibbs, John Gianelli, Fred Foster, Wil Jones, Bill Willoughby, Ted McClain, Mike Glenn, Jim McDaniels and Scott Lloyd.
The Sabres and Bills will need a lot of work. We’ll see if it’s even possible to make up a list for them in the days ahead.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)