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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Adrian Dantley

(Born on February 28, 1956) -- As we finish up this list of Buffalo’s sports birthdays after a full year, we salute someone who did well in Buffalo but who stayed for much too short a time.

Adrian Dantley came out of the legendary high school basketball programs in the country, DeMatha of suburban Washington, D.C. He moved on to play college basketball at Notre Dame, where he became one of the school’s all-time greats. Dantley helped end UCLA’s 88-game win streak as a freshman in 1974, and became an All-American as a sophomore and junior. The forward won a gold medal with the U.S. team in Montreal in 1976.

That same year, Dantley became the first-round draft choice of the Buffalo Braves. He was the sixth pick overall. There was some doubt about whether the 6-foot-5 forward could play his low post game in the pros, but he silenced those thoughts quickly. Dantley became rookie of the year, the Braves’ third in their history.

The Braves shipped Dantley to Indiana in the offseason, the first time a rookie of the year had been traded before he started his second season with that team. Dantley was traded to the Lakers from there, and then later to the Jazz. In Utah he led the league in scoring twice and averaged more than 30 points per game four times.

Dantley moved on to Detroit from there, and also played for Dallas and Milwaukee. He averaged 24.3 points per game in his career, and was an easy choice for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Thank you for reading this feature over the past 365 days.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Eddie Brown

(Born on February 27, 1969) -- Consider yourself one of the all-time Buffalo sports experts if this name rings any sort of bell. The obvious hint is that he played football, but not the kind of football you’re considering.

Brown played high school football at Muskegon High (Mich.), where he won a state championship. Then it was on to Grand Rapids Community College and Michigan State. Brown started as wide receiver in 1989 and as a defensive back in 1990.

That sort of two-way ability was perfect with the Arena Football League. He joined the Tampa Bay Storm, and won a championship in 1991. Brown also won titles there in 1993 and 1995.

Eventually Brown came to the Buffalo Destroyers. He caught 48 passes in his first year here in 1999, and stayed for three more seasons. The team eventually named its “big hit” award after him.

“Downtown” moved into coaching from there. He’s apparently found a home at Grand Valley State, serving as the running backs coach for the past three years.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Sam Cowart

(Born on February 26, 1975) -- The National Football League career of Sam Cowart wasn’t a long one. At least Buffalo’s football fans had the chance to see him at his best.

Cowart was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and played high school football there. He was a dominant player by the time he was a senior, as he was all-state and was considered one of the nation’s elite players. That earned him a trip to Florida State.

The linebacker was part of a national championship in 1993, and led the Seminoles in tackles in 1995. After missing a year with an injury, Cowart was a first-team All-American pick in 1997. That helped make him a second-round pick of the Bills.

By 2000, Cowart was considered one of the best linebackers in the league and made the Pro Bowl. But a block resulted in a bad ankle injury at the end of the year, and then on opening day in 2001 he tore his Achilles. Cowart left as a free agent for the Jets.

He started almost all of New York’s games, but was never quite the same. He lost his starting job in 2005, and then passed through Minnesota and Houston before retiring.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Don Majkowski

(Born on February 25, 1964) -- Don Majkowski probably knows he’ll be associated with a trivia question for the rest of his life. He also knows he had a heck of a ride in the National Football League.

Majkowski was born and raised in Western New York, and was a standout at Depew High School. He led Depew to a sectional championship in 1982. The quarterback spent a year with Fork Union Military Academy; the team went unbeaten.

Majkowski moved on to the University of Virginia. It didn’t take him long to become the starting quarterback there. By the time he was done, he was the Cavaliers’ all-time leader in passing and total offense.

A 10th round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers, Majkowski was a starter for five games as a rookie. But injuries were a problem for him. In 1992, he hurt his ankle ... and was replaced by an unknown named Brett Favre.

As you’d expect, Majkowski never got his job back. He played a little for Indianapolis and Detroit before retiring. Don is now living in Atlanta and works in real estate at last report.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Bubba Phillips

(Born on February 24, 1928) -- Bubba Phillips waited quite a while for the chance to play major league baseball. Once he arrived, he stayed for more than a decade.

Phillips was born in Mississippi, and his brother gave him the nickname that stayed with him for life. In high school, he scored an amazing 235 points for the football team in only nine games. Phillips said it was a small school; he even kicked extra points.

Phillips moved on to Mississippi Southern College, where he played football and basketball. He chose to try his luck as a pro baseball player, and played with the Buffalo Bisons in 1952. There he hit .291 with 14 homers.

Phillips was ready for a shot at the big leagues, but a two-year stint in the armed forces delayed that. However, he was the starting left fielder for the Tigers in 1955 on opening day. Phillips bounced to the White Sox and Indians before returning to Detroit.

His final major league appearance came in 1964, and spent part of 1965 in the minors. Then Phillips retired, and worked in real estate in Mississippi. He died of a heart attack in 1993.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Joe Devlin

(Born on February 23, 1954) -- It’s easy to think that Joe Devlin was very happy to play in a few playoff games as a Buffalo Bill early in the 1980s. Otherwise, he was one of the few bright spots on some poor Bills’ teams.

Devlin grew up in Pennsylvania and played his college football at the University of Iowa. He was an All-American as a senior, and was considered a top prospect by NFL scouts at that point.

The Bills grabbed the tackle in the second round with a pick that was acquired from the Cardinals for Walt Patulski. Devlin needed a year to move into the starting lineup. But once he arrived in that spot in 1977, he stayed for more than a decade.

Devlin never did make it to a Pro Bowl. That was more due to the surrounding talent around him and that fact that he didn’t talk too much to the media. But he helped such players as Terry Miller, Joe Cribbs and Greg Bell compile 1,000-yard seasons.

Devlin finished his career having played 191 games as a Bill, starting 179 of them. Joe DeLamielleure called him one of the best tackles to line up next to him. That’s high praise from a Hall of Famer.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Pat LaFontaine

(Born on February 22, 1965) -- It’s fair to say that Pat LaFontaine’s stay in Buffalo was too short, and that it was never boring.

LaFontaine certainly ranks as one of the greatest American-born hockey players in history. He was born in St. Louis but moved to Michigan as a youngster. There he learned the game, and played junior hockey in Quebec. In his last season for Verdun, the center had 234 points in 70 games.

LaFontaine was the first draft choice (third overall) of the Islanders in 1983. He just missed playing on the New York dynasty of the early 1980s. His most famous goal of that time came in 1987, when he scored in a four-overtime contest against the Capitals.

LaFontaine was caught up in a contract dispute in 1991, and that led to a major trade with the Sabres involving Pierre Turgeon. LaFontaine picked up his game here, scoring 148 points in the 1992-93 campaign. He teamed with Alexander Mogilny in a season to remember.

LaFontaine had injury problems after that, and suffered a concussion that cost him most of the 1996-97 season. He and the Sabres disagreed on his condition a year later, and he was traded to the Rangers for a draft choice. Another concussion ended his career in the spring of 1998.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Jack Ramsay

(Born on February 21, 1925) -- The basketball fans of Western New York had a hunch that they had a championship coach in town when Jack Ramsay led the Buffalo Braves. They just are sad he didn’t do it here.

Ramsay was born in Philadelphia and stayed in that area for the almost all of the early part of his life. He earned his college degree at St. Joseph’s, and his masters and doctorate at Penn. Ramsay didn’t major in basketball; it just seemed that way.

Ramsay entered the NBA in 1968 as the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. He later coached that team, and jumped to the Braves in 1972. Ramsay stayed through 1976, and helped put together an entertaining team in his time here.

He left in 1976, and immediately guided the Portland Trail Blazers to an NBA title in 1977. That was one of the most famous teams in NBA history, as Bill Walton and Co. defeated Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers in the finals. Ramsay stayed for 10 years in Portland, and then moved to Indiana.

Dr. Jack moved smoothly into broadcasting from there. He did some national and local commentary. Ramsay also wrote several books. He went into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Fred Jackson

(Born on February 20, 1981) -- Coe College has made two memorable contributions to the Buffalo Bills over the years. That’s an amazing number for such a tiny school.

Fred Jackson is the current head of the Coe alumni association on the Bills’ roster. He was considered too small to start on his high school team in Arlington, Texas. Jackson’s junior high coach figured out a way to have Jackson get a look at Coe, known in football circles as the alma mater of former Bills’ coach Marv Levy.

Jackson was a standout in college, making five All-American teams while playing Division III football in 2002. He scored 29 touchdowns that year. Still he went undrafted. So, it was on to indoor football and NFL Europa.

Levy invited Jackson to training camp in 2006, and he got into the lineup in 2007. By 2009 Jackson was a standout, gaining more than 1,000 yards rushing. In 2011, an outstanding season was spoiled by a broken leg, but he still rushed for 934 yards in 10 games.

Jackson returned to health in 2012 for the most part, and he and C.J. Spiller teamed up to do most of the Bills’ rushing last season. Buffalo didn’t have a great many offensive weapons last season, and it was odd that two of their best played the same position.

--- Budd Bailey

This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Marta

(Born on February 19, 1986) -- There’s a little sorrow involved in the local career of soccer superstar Marta. She has to be the best player ever to dress for a Western New York team who never played a game in Western New York.

Marta is the gold standard when it comes to women’s soccer. She was discovered in Brazil at the age of 14, and trained with one of that country’s top soccer clubs. Marta turned pro in 2000 but saw the team fold in 2002.

It was on to other club teams from there, and she was named the world’s best woman’s soccer player in 2006 ... and for the next four years after that as well. Marta came to America in 2009, and the Western New York Flash acquired her rights in 2011.

The expansion team was loaded with talent, and Marta fit right in. She helped the team - which played its home games in Rochester because of stadium issues - win a championship.

Then Marta moved on to Sweden to play in a women’s league there. She’s played in the Olympics, and is the top scorer in women’s World Cup history. Marta even has been named an official good will ambassador for the United Nations.

--- Budd Bailey

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