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Local college hoops teams pay tribute to Buffalo Braves

photo courtesy Matt Lozar, Canisius College

Plans were announced Wednesday for the first Big 4 Basketball Classic on Saturday, November 29, at First Niagara Center. Planners may have scored with fans by designing special throwback uniforms that feature the colors of the Buffalo Braves.

It's the first time since December, 1998, that the four local division one teams will gather for a doubleheader.  Game one will feature Niagara and Saint Bonaventure with Canisius playing the University at Buffalo in the nightcap.

The uniforms, though, have captured the attention of many. The NBA's Buffalo Braves, who departed Western New York after the 1978 season, retain a passionate connection with local fans.

"My father took me to a Braves game. It was on my sixth birthday," recalled Bucky Gleason the Buffalo News sports columnist. He described with remarkable specificity a play by Ernie DiGregorio, the Braves rookie point guard that occurred over four decades ago.

"I love the Braves. I wish they would come back."

Niagara and Saint Bonaventure will wear uniforms that reflect the Braves orange and black color scheme that was used from 1971 to 1973. Canisius and UB will wear uniforms featuring Columbia blue and white, the Braves color scheme from 1973 to 1978.

"I'm not a big uniform guy. In fact, I think there's way too much emphasis put on it," Gleason said.

As for the Braves?

"They were the coolest uniforms, I thought, in sports."

Not all are as enthusiastic about the colors. 

UB Coach Bobby Hurley became a college basketball legend when he led Duke University to two national championships. His team's games against rival North Carolina were fierce battles. Those emotions haven't faded over the years.

North Carolina's light blue color scheme recall the Braves uniforms. For the Big Four Classic, UB will wear mainly white uniforms, with just a touch a light blue.

"I wasn't thrilled with that," Hurley admitted. 

"We minimized our exposure to that shade of blue, which I'm all for, I'm happy about."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.