On This Date in Sports April 8, 1978

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The Buffalo Braves play their final home game at Memorial Auditorium, losing to the New York Knicks 118-107. The Braves season would end one day later with a 131-114 loss to the Boston Celtics. After the season the Braves and Celtics would swap ownership, with John Y. Brown taking over in Boston, and Irv Levin taking over the Braves. Levin would move the franchise to San Diego, becoming the Clippers.

Irv Levin became the owner of the Boston Celtics in 1975 after a two-year legal battle with the NBA, which blocked his initial attempts to buy the team in 1972 due to a conflict of interest. A real estate developer, theater chain owner and occasion producer, Levin desired to move the team to California. However, with 13 championships, and one of the leagues charter franchises the NBA was not going to allow him to move the Celtics.

John Y. Brown, was an entrepreneur in every sense of the word, he helped turn Kentucky Fried Chicken into a national brand. His first foray into professional basketball came in the ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, who despite winning the 1975 championship were not one of four teams invited to join the NBA in 1976. Brown agreed to a buyout and was given the chance to buy the struggling Buffalo Braves.

The Braves were among three expansion teams to join the NBA in 1970 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers. In eight seasons in Buffalo, the Braves had three playoff appearances, with their best season coming in 1975 when they went 49-33 thanks to an MVP season from Bob McAdoo. However, a long feud between owner Paul Snyder and the owners of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres began to spell doom for the NBA in Western New York. As Snyder began to break the team apart and sell the Braves to an ownership group in Miami. However, at the time they could not break the lease, leading to John Y. Brown taking over as owner in Buffalo.

As the Braves struggled to fill the Aud, falling below the threshold that allowed them to break their lease, and the Celtics were in danger of moving to San Diego, NBA Attorney David Stern came up with the perfect compromise to satisfy all parties. John Y. Brown would buy the Celtics, with Irv Levin buying the Braves. With no impediments and no historical significance, Levin would get his wish to move an NBA franchise to San Diego and the Celtics would get an owner committed to staying in Boston. Brown, would feud with Celtics President Red Auerbach, causing the legendary coach to nearly leaving for the New York Knicks. However, after just one year in Boston, John Y. Brown sold his share to Harry T. Mangurian who had been a partner in the Braves ownership when he became Governor of Kentucky.