Only three players from the Braves/Clippers organization have worn the No. 43, two of them in Buffalo, the most recent in 1988.
But of the three — Kevin Kunnert, Larry McNeill and Claude Gregory — McNeill had the most distinguished, if brief, run. Playing in Buffalo in 1978 after signing during the season as a free agent, McNeill played 37 games for the Braves and posted his NBA career-high in ppg, with 11.9, to go with 5.1 rebounds per game in that stretch.
McNeill was a product of the vaunted New York City scene, and played collegiately at Marquette — the same college Doc Rivers played at — with McNeill missing out on their 1974 national title by just a year. Drafted by the Kings in 1973, he played the bulk of his minutes with that franchise, before departing in a trade to the Nets in 1976.
From there, the 6’9 forward/center bounced around the NBA, including his stop with Buffalo in 1978, and eventually made his way to the Philippines, where he became a legend.
In four seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association from 1979-83, McNeill was a scoring sensation, notching 88 points in one game in his final season there. All told, McNeill averaged a stunning 41.7 points per game across his career in the PBA, according to this ESPN story, which is remarkably only the third-best scoring rate in that league’s history.
Internet records indicate McNeill died in 2004 at the age of 53. He was one of many great players during a golden era at Marquette, a steady contributor in the NBA for the Kings, and an absolute legend in his time in the Philippines. For the Buffalo Braves, he played less than half a season, but his reputation as a low-post scorer made him a valuable addition for a time. Larry McNeill isn’t the first player you think of when you think of this franchise, but to date, he’s the best to have worn the No. 43.
Onto the news for Thursday:
- Wilson is coming: The NBA announced Wednesday they will switch basketball brands to Wilson starting in 2021-22. It’s a big change: Spaulding has been the ball provider for the league for 36 seasons.
- Crawford has high praise for Doc: Jamal Crawford was a guest on The Platform Basketball Podcast, and in the course of a long discussion, praised Doc Rivers for building him up, not tearing him down, when they were together at the Clippers. The approach seemed to work, as Crawford enjoyed a terrific stint with the Clips. You can watch the full show below.
- Drew League is cancelled: The Drew League, the LA summer league that brings together current, former, future and wannabe NBA pros, has decided to cancel the upcoming season due to the coronavirus pandemic, per ESPN. It’s a bummer but also seems inevitable in the current climate.
- Ballmers have fourth-biggest known donation to Mayor’s Fund: LAist did some digging on the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, the charity set up by Mayor Eric Garcetti that has gotten 10 times the donations this year due to appeals because of the coronavirus. Among the revelations, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has made the fourth-largest known donation to the Mayor’s Fund, of $2 million. The biggest donation? You’ll never guess (or maybe you will, if you’re up on your geopolitics).
- Clippers’ draft strategy: FanSided argues the Clippers should look to get back into trading for draft picks in the first round in coming years or they will struggle to build a consistent contender when the current core ages out.