I sent an email out earlier this week:
"Any favorite Rodney Buford memories?"
Friend #1: The Sheriff!
Friend #2: No, but I love him.
Mom: Did you watch the ND/UCONN Women's game? That was so exciting!
Friend #3: Is this for one of those remember things? You still write those?
Great. Thanks for the help, everyone.
Name: Rodney Buford
Born: November 2, 1977
Nickname: "The Sheriff"
Sixers Tenure: 2000-2001
Semi-Believable Dialogue from 2001:
I like this Buford and Mutombo two man game.
"You got good taste."
I suppose that every conversation about Rodney Buford (and there are many currently taking place in the greater Philadelphia area) must begin with his nickname.
She's a beaut, ain't she? She packs a punch. It's a nickname you remember. It stays with you. It's embedded in your consciousness like Contra's thirty lives cheat code. Rodney Buford is the Sheriff. The Sheriff is Rodney Buford.
Nicknames have really devolved in the last twenty years. Today, they are just a series of letters and/or numbers - glorified passwords really - ranging from easy to mildly easy on the password difficulty scale. D12 isn't a nickname. It's the lot where I parked my Ford Taurus. Back then, nicknames had substance. Michael Cage was "The Juice Man," because he liked juice, man. Steve Mix was "The Mayor," because he ran for Toledo City Council back in '88 under the Two for One If They Hurry platform. (He lost. Admittedly, the "2 4 1" billboards on the Ohio interstate were a tad confusing).
And, of course, The Sheriff.
The Sixers brought in Buford to restore law and order on the second unit. He was a '00-‘01 midseason acquisition - a quick-triggered mercenary who listed ‘Jump Shooter' under occupation on his tax returns. But this was pre-Twitter, mind you. Back then, I didn't have the luxury of reading forty "Who is Rodney Buford?" tweets and piggybacking the most informed one. (Probably Derek's). We fans were left to our own devices. Just basketball observers relying on the ol' eye test.
I like this Buford guy's headband.
"Yeah. He wears it better than Gatling."
So we like Buford, right?
The ‘ol eye test. Boom. Opinion formed. Buford was one of a bevy of wings who graced the Sixers roster that season. Whether it was due to injuries, trades, game styles, personal preference, etc., Larry Brown collected swingmen like they were baseball cards.
On the court, Rodney Buford was more Donruss than Stadium Club. He wasn't flashy, but he was serviceable and chipped in five a night for the Sixers. Buford didn't have a particularly strong skill set, but you liked having him out there. You felt safe, like you knew The Sheriff wouldn't let the Toronto Raptors hurt you or your family. But his nickname and his headband and his subsequent popularity - it all transcended his talent. Slap a "The Viking" nickname on Jumaine Jones twelve years ago, and South Philly would have been flooded with #33 jerseys and Berzerker Halloween costumes.
"Your Berzerker outfit was a big hit at Steve's party."
"And Tina made a really good Mr. Fuji."
Yeah, she's a good sport.
Buford played just one season in Philadelphia. Since then, he has covered the basketball gauntlet, traveling around the globe with the frequency of a Carmen Sandiego - who, by the way, gumshoes, was last spotted with the stolen Mona Lisa in this Austrian capital city:
And while Buford's stint with the Sixers was short, our memories are not. We love The Sheriff.
We always have.
Buford's Best Game: A nice 16 and 8 effort against Miami.
If Buford Was a Wrestler...
No gimmick change needed. I'd team The Sheriff up with the Big Boss Man and tell Akeem to pound sand.
In the fall of 2000, I was published (term used very, very, very loosely) on the internet. I wrote an email to the ESPN staff (I think it was called espn.go.com back then) during study hall in 11th grade after the Sixers opening night beat down of the Knicks. It was published on the NBA section the next day. I definitely quoted Bob Dylan in reference to Toni Kukoc getting in the lane.
I know. I'm just as confused as you are.
It's the only detail I remember. If anyone can find this, I'll be indebted to you for life. Perhaps we can get you a LB t-shirt or a wedding invite? I'll talk to the bride.
I'm desperate. This is my Cold Case.
Obligatory You Tube Clip
What two Sixers from the 2000-2001 NBA Finals team are still in the NBA?
Have a great weekend, everyone. Thanks for reading.