Bobby ‘Bingo’ Smith: The Cavaliers’ Legendary Trailblazer Dies at 77

Explore the remarkable journey of Bobby ‘Bingo’ Smith, the small forward who played a pivotal role in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rise from expansion team to playoff contenders in the 1970s.

Bobby 'Bingo' Smith Dies
Bobby ‘Bingo’ Smith passes away at 77.

Bobby “Bingo” Smith, the tenacious small forward who played an instrumental role in transforming the Cleveland Cavaliers from an expansion team into a formidable playoff contender during the 1970s, has passed away at the age of 77.

The Cleveland Cavaliers solemnly announced Smith’s departure on Thursday night, leaving many to reflect on his remarkable journey in the world of basketball. While the immediate cause of his passing remains undisclosed, it is known that Smith had grappled with health challenges in recent years.

Smith’s legacy looms large in Cleveland’s basketball history, as he is one of only seven former players to have their numbers retired by the team. His No. 7 jersey was ceremoniously raised to the rafters in 1979, a gesture that forever enshrined his contribution to the franchise.

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The early chapters of Smith’s NBA career saw him don the uniform of the San Diego Clippers before being handpicked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1970 expansion draft. Despite the Cavaliers’ initial struggles as newcomers to the league, Smith swiftly emerged as one of the squad’s standout performers.

During the 1974-75 season, Smith led the Cavaliers in scoring, laying the foundation for the team’s maiden playoff appearance the following year. Teaming up with Austin Carr, Campy Russell, and Jim Chones—three fellow Cavaliers legends who would later become beloved broadcasters—Smith played an integral role in a historic moment etched into the team’s lore: the “Miracle of Richfield.”

In a stunning upset, the Cavs triumphed over the heavily favored Washington Bullets in a seven-game series, with several contests decided in the waning seconds, one requiring overtime. When the Cavaliers clinched Game 7, jubilant fans stormed the Richfield Coliseum floor, symbolically tearing down the basket stanchions in euphoria.

Smith’s commitment to the Cavaliers extended for four more seasons before concluding his illustrious career with the San Diego Clippers.

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Campy Russell, the team’s director of alumni relations, paid heartfelt tribute to Smith, emphasizing his enduring influence both on and off the court. “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,” Russell remarked.

Austin Carr, a teammate who battled alongside Smith, recalled his indomitable spirit and generosity as a teammate. “Bingo was always a giving teammate and one of the most fierce competitors I ever played with,” Carr said. “This is truly a sad moment in our franchise history, and my heart goes out to his family.”

Bobby “Bingo” Smith‘s name continues to be inscribed among the statistical leaders in the Cavaliers’ history, holding prominent positions in various categories, including games played (4th), field goals made (3rd), field goals attempted (3rd), minutes played (5th), and total points scored (6th).

His legacy as a stalwart of the Cavaliers endures, leaving an indelible mark on the franchise and the hearts of basketball enthusiasts everywhere.

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