Cleveland and NBA fans in general are mourning the death of Bobby “Bingo” Smith, a Cavaliers icon who helped the franchise become a playoff contender in the decade of the 70s. The small forward has passed away this Thursday at the age 0f 77.
The Ohio franchise made the announcement last night, with no clear known causes of his death, although it was well known he’d been struggling with health issues in recent years. Bingo is one of the seven former athletes to have their jersey numbers retired by the club, which in his case, his No. 7 was hung in the rafters back in 1979.
“Cavaliers Legend, Bobby Bingo Smith, passed away today at the age of 77. Our thoughts, prayers, and well wishes are with the Smith family. Smith’s enduring legacy shines through his presence in the franchise’s record books and his meaningful time spent with the organization,” the club released in a statement.
— Mr. Cleveland Sports (@MrCleveland_216) October 27, 2023
Smith began his professional career playing for San Diego, before he was chosen by the Cavaliers in the 1970 expansion draft. Despite not achieving his potential in his first few campaigns in the league, Bingo was still one of the franchise’s best players.
In the 1974/74 season, for example, he led the Cavs in scoring. The following year, he guided the team to their first-ever playoff run alongside other icons such as Campy Russell, Jim Chones and Austin Carr, which to this day are all still broadcasters with the club.
He was then part of the “Miracle of Richfield”, which was the name given to the seven-game series against the heavily favored Washington Bullets. Three of those matches were decided in the finals seconds as Cleveland fans stormed the floor and tore down the arena in celebration.
Bobby represented Cleveland for four more seasons before ending his career with the San Diego Clippers.
Sports writer and broadcaster Sam Amico recently posted an article explaining why Bingo made him love the Cavaliers. “When my dad took me to a Cavaliers game for the first time, I agreed to go for one reason — to watch Bingo Smith,” he wrote.
“For a few years, I didn’t really care if the Cavs won or lost. I merely tuned in to see how many points Smith scored,” Amico added.
His teammates remember him as “one of the most gifted players” to ever wear the Cavaliers jersey and explained his impact on the court and community
“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,” said Campy Russell, who serves as today’s team director of alumni relations.
Smith is still at the top of the franchise’s statistical categories after so many decades. He’s the fourth player with most games, third in field goals hit and in attempts made, fifth in minutes and sixth in points.