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On This Date in Sports October 28, 1973: Elmore Smith's Block Party

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Elmore Smith whom the Los Angeles Lakers acquired in the off-season to replace Wilt Chamberlain sets a new NBA record when he blocks 17 shots in a 111-98 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Smith had set the record two days earlier, blocking 14 shots in a 94-92 win over the Detroit Pistons two days earlier as he had ten or more in four games in a week.

Elmore Smith was born May 9, 1949, in Macon, Georgia. After playing at Kentucky State, Smith was picked by the Buffalo Braves with the third overall pick in the 1971 draft. In his rookie season, Elmore Smith averaged 17.2 points and 15.3 rebounds per game and was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Team. After two seasons with the Braves, Elmore Smith was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jim McMillian as they looked to replace Wilt Chamberlain whose career came to an end in 1973.

As Elmore Smith arrived in Los Angeles, the NBA decided to begin tracking block shots for the first time. There is no telling how many blocks Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell had as their careers were over, though Elmore Smith became the first player in NBA history to lead the league. Nicknamed “Elmore the Rejector” Smith had four games in a week in which he reached double digits in blocked shots, beginning with ten in a 108-98 win over the Houston Rockets on October 23rd in Houston. Smith raised the record again to 14 blocks in a 94-92 win at the Forum three days later. His 17 blocked shots against Portland remains the record, as Manute Bol and Shaquille O’Neal are the only other players with 15 in a game. The game would also see Smith get a Triple-Double as he had 17 points and 16 rebounds. Two nights later, Elmore Smith again had 14 points in a losing effort as the Blazers beat the Lakers 114-112 in Portland on the second end of a home-and-home.

Elmore Smith led the league in blocked shots both seasons he played with the Lakers. In 1975, he was on the move again as he was one of four players, along with Brian Winters and two draft picks traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, completing the bridge between two of the greatest centers in NBA history playing with the Lakers. Smith would finish his career quietly with the Cleveland Cavaliers as his career ended in 1979.