The Buffalo Braves featured some boldface names during their eight-year stay in upstate New York. But in the void left since the city’s oft-forgotten NBA franchise moved to San Diego in 1978 and was re-named the Clippers, Braves fan John Boutet has been determined not to let the memories of his boyhood club vanish into the fog of history.
To this day, Boutet’s email handle — buffalobraves9 — is an homage to Smith’s jersey number.
The Braves packed a lot of notable names into a short span. But Boutet’s enthusiasm for memorializing the team’s time in the city hasn’t always been reciprocated. “It seems everyone with the power to make a hall of fame happen thinks it’s a wonderful idea,” he once said, “but no one has stepped forward in helping me do that.”
Sports fandom can be funny that way — it’s both a communal thing that can forge a deep sense of identity and an individualistic undertaking that evokes highly personal feelings and memories.
“He was out there getting some competitive juices out before the game,” Ron Pollack said.
Pollack was only 16 years old on that March 2 night in 1962, but thanks to his father Harvey, the public relations director and game statistician for the Philadelphia Warriors, Ron Pollack had a front-row seat to history while he charted play-by-play of the game. He saw all 36 of Chamberlain’s made field goals and 28 made free throws. He watched as Chamberlain scored 23 points in the first quarter, had 41 points by halftime, scored another 28 points in the third quarter and then withstood the Knicks’ futile attempt at triple-teaming him to keep the indefensible center from scoring 100 points.
In the fourth quarter, after each time Chamberlain scored, arena announcer Dave Zinkoff updated the crowd of 4,124 with Chamberlain’s point total. Chamberlain didn’t need to be told. He always kept a running count in his head during games.
A career 51.1 percent free throw shooter, Chamberlain made 28 of 32 foul shots that night.
After Chamberlain set the record for points in a game — an NBA record that still stands and might never be broken — Ron Pollack ran his father’s game stories to Western Union to be transmitted to the Associated Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the United Press International. And he grabbed a program from the game — it advertised game tickets for $2.50 — and years later had Chamberlain sign it for his son. Chamberlain did, and it remains one of few known mementos from the game.
Another is the picture Harvey Pollack orchestrated. After the game, Pollack stuffed the game ball into Chamberlain’s bag and scribbled “100” on a piece of paper. He had Associated Press photographer Paul Vathis take a picture of Chamberlain sitting on a stool holding the paper to commemorate the accomplishment.