When the Buffalo Braves decided they wanted to get bigger and stronger, they reached out to acquire John Shumate. That was a pretty good choice.
Shumate was involved in one of the most famous games in college basketball history even before he got to the pros. He played college basketball at Notre Dame, which hosted UCLA on Jan. 19, 1974. The Bruins had won 88 games in a row, but the Fighting Irish took a 71-70 decision while scoring the game's last 12 points. Shumate finished with 24 points and had the game's last rebound.
He was taken in the first round of the NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns. Shumate averaged about 11 points per game. However, the Braves thought they needed a little more size and rebounding to take the next step in their improvement. On Feb. 1, 1976, Shumate was dealt to Buffalo for Garfield Heard and a second-round draft choice. By the way, Heard helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals later that season.
Shumate did was he was supposed to do. He averaged about 15 points and 10 rebounds per game as a Brave. He was on the 1976 team that defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in a three-game mini-series; it was the only time the Braves won a playoff series.
In Nov. 1977, the Braves had the chance to acquire a major if enigmatic talent: Marvin Barnes. They shipped Shumate, Gus Gerard and a draft choice to Detroit for Barnes. It didn't help the Braves much, but Shumate bounced around a bit for a couple of years. He retired due to circulation problems in his legs in 1981.
Shumate eventually coached the Phoenix Mercury team for the WNBA for a while. He's now a scout with the Suns.
-- Budd Bailey
Sports Ink blog at buffalonews.com/blogs