If there's an argument to be made for going back to the days when the NBA draft lasted longer than two rounds, Exhibit A is Randy Smith. The two-time All-Star and NBA iron man, who died at age 60 of an apparent heart attack at the Connecticut casino where he worked as a greeter, was selected in the seventh round of the 1971 draft by the fledgling Buffalo Braves. General manager Eddie Donovan conceded that he didn't expect Smith to make the team; the Braves had only taken him because he had become something of a local legend at Buffalo State. As a freshman on the Bengals' soccer team, Smith came within three goals of outscoring the opposition for the entire season. As a junior he averaged 30 points a game in basketball. After a misunderstanding with a Philadelphia cop, he spent a night in jail and then placed second in two events at the Penn Relays the next day.
Smith wound up sticking with the Braves and lasting 12 NBA seasons largely because of his freakish natural athletic ability. (In 1975 the team's trainer said of Smith, "Legs like Secretariat. You could take him into an anatomy class and show every muscle in the body.") But Smith became best known for his durability. He was never sidelined by injury growing up or in college, despite the fact that he never so much as taped an ankle. From February 1972 through March 1983 he played in a record 906 straight NBA games. The streak ended only because the San Diego Clippers waived him in 1983. (The record has since been surpassed by A.C. Green, with 1,192.)
To sustain his record run Smith evolved from a defensive specialist into a scoring threat, averaging 20 points a game for four straight seasons. He was the MVP of the 1978 All-Star Game, in which he had 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. "Randy may have been the fastest player in the NBA at his peak, and he was one of the really great guards," former Braves owner Paul Snyder said. "He could hold his own with anybody."
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A jury in Maine will decide if a high school softball coach was fired because she's a lesbian (the coach's claim) or because she made her players walk through sheep manure at a team picnic (the school's stated reason).
DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (SMITH)
BRAVE SOUL The guard was Buffalo's alltime leader in games and points.