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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Mahdi Abdul-Rahman

     (Born April 15, 1942) -- Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, or Walt Hazzard, might have spent the least important time of his basketball career in Buffalo.

     Hazzard came out of Philadelphia to play with UCLA. He became part of John Wooden's first two championship teams in 1964 and 1965, and the Bruins started on their unmatched dynasty. Hazzard and Gail Goodrich were one of the greatest backcourts in NCAA history.

     Hazzard moved on to the pros as a first-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Lakers. He eventually bounced to the Seattle SuperSonics and Atlanta Hawks. In 1971, it became pretty obvious that having Hazzard and Pete Maravich was one point guard too many for the Hawks. It was also obvious which one was the bigger gate attraction, and which one should be traded.

     The Braves dealt Don May and Herm Gilliam to the Hawks for Hazzard and Jerry Chambers, who played only 26 games here before leaving for the American Basketball Association. While in training camp Hazzard announced that he had changed his name to Abdul-Rahman. As a Brave, he averaged 15.8 points per game in 1971-72.

    However, Abdul-Rahman's career turned sour from there. He was waived by the Braves after a poor start to the 1972-73 season and was out of basketball less than two years later.

     In 1984, Abdul-Rahman -- who returned to the name of Hazzard professionally because he thought his Muslim name cost him job opportunities -- became the head basketball coach at UCLA. He lasted four years, making one NCAA tournament. Hazzard died in 2012.

--- Budd Bailey

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