No other NBA franchise has the lineage of big men like the Los Angeles Lakers. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal are all on the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list, and all have a legacy with the NBA’s premiere franchise. But none of those greats accomplished what Elmore Smith did in 1973.
Known as ‘Elmore The Rejector,’ Smith came into the league with the Buffalo Braves in 1971. The Lakers acquired Smith in 1973 as a replacement to Wilt Chamberlain. That same year was also the first year in which blocks became an officially recorded statistic, which would explain why guys like Chamberlain and Bill Russell aren’t at the top of this list.
On October 28, 1973, the Portland Trail Blazers came to the Great Western Forum and became a part of history. The undersized Blazers, whose starting center was only 6’7, continually tested the seven-foot Smith, and they were continually denied to the tune of an NBA record 17 blocks.
Smith himself told the LA Times he was shocked at the number:
It didn’t seem like they were catching on. They continued to try to score close to the basket and I just kept blocking their shots […] I didn’t realize how many I blocked until after the game, when people were asking me about it. You don’t keep count of things like that.
Blocked shots are one of the more recent statistics to be recorded, but even with that, there have been so many lauded shot blockers to enter and leave the NBA since that time that you would think they would have this record. Guys like Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon, Ben Wallace, and Dwight Howard were never able to take this title from one of the lesser heralded Laker big men.
On this Throwback Thursday, almost 40 years to the day, we remember Elmore Smith for setting the NBA’s single game block record.
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