[In the player above, watch previous FOX 8 I-Team coverage on the Cavs’ new practice center, planned for the heart of downtown Cleveland.]
CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Cleveland Cavaliers are mourning the death of a local basketball “legend,” who played 10 seasons and more than 700 games and whose jersey number was one of only a handful in franchise history to be retired.
Bobby “Bingo” Smith has died at 77 years old, the Cavs announced in a Thursday news release.
“This is an incredibly sad day for our Cavaliers family and we are deeply hurt relating to Bingo’s passing,” Campy Russell, the Cavs’ director of alumni relations and Bingo’s former teammate, is quoted in the release. “Bingo was one of the most gifted players to ever grace the Wine and Gold, and his impact on the court and throughout the community made a lasting impression on everyone that ever came into contact with him.”
The Cavs drafted Smith in May 1970. Known for his patented ‘rainbow jumper,’ Smith became a driving force for Cleveland in the 70s. He was a key player of the “Miracle of Richfield” team in 1976, when the Cavs made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
In fact, in Game 2, Smith is remembered for making the winning shot with just seconds to spare, leading Cleveland to a 80-79 victory over the Washington Bullets.
He went on to lead the Cavs to the playoffs two more times before finishing his career with the San Diego Clippers.
“We lost a great man,” said Cavs radio analyst Jim Chones, a former teammate of Smith. “Praying for the Smith family and all their loved ones today, as we truly lost a brother, a teammate, a father and all-around great human being. His impact on the Cavaliers and so many of us that played with him will never be forgotten. My hearts goes out to all those he touched throughout his life. Rest in power Bingo.”
Smith continues holding the following Cavs records: fourth place for most games played, third place for most field goals made, third place for most field goal attempts, fifth place for most minutes played and sixth place for most points scored.
The Cavaliers retired his #7 jersey in 1979.