Former ABA player Al Smith died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to reports. Police in Florida say Smith shot his girlfriend at an apartment complex in Sarasota County; authorities said they attempted to contact Smith for roughly four hours before forcing entry into the apartment where he was found dead. Smith’s girlfriend was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The ABA community is mourning the death of Al Smith. The 75-year-old shot himself after wounding a woman, who then escaped his Sarasota apartment. An ABA (5 seasons with Denver & Utah) & Viet Nam vet (between junior & senior year at Bradley), Smith led league (73-74) in assists.
— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) December 28, 2022
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
Nearly 20 percent of domestic violence cases involve a weapon, according to the NCADV, and intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation reportedly also increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.
Without any additional details, it seems like Smith was dealing with some heavy circumstances, if he went from shooting his girlfriend to killing himself. Smith was 75.
Smith, whose full name is Alan Otis Smith, was born in Peoria, Illinois, and attended Manual High School. He was a legendary three-sport athlete, competing in basketball, football and baseball, earning All-State honors in all three.
He was so good at baseball that the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the seventh round of the inaugural Major League Baseball draft in 1965. Smith opted for college over signing with the White Sox.
He had offers to attend the University of Southern California and Notre Dame University, but he chose to attend Bradley University in order to play basketball and baseball.
During his time at Bradley, he served a two-year commission in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War. As a college basketball player, he scored over 1,000 points for Bradley and was named first team All-Missouri Valley Conference during his senior year. In 2004, he was selected to Bradley’s All-Century team.
Sad to hear the death of Al Smith- Peoria Manual and Bradley Braves legend. Smith dies at the age of 75 in a domestic conflict in Florida. Sad end to the life of a Vietnam vet, ABA player and a man many call Peoria preps finest ever 3-sport athlete.
— Jim Mattson (@hoijim) December 23, 2022
After college, Smith was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 11th round of the 1971 NBA Draft; he was also drafted by the Bulls in the 10th round of the 1969 draft. He was also a fourth-round draft pick of the ABA’s Denver Rockets (now the NBA’s Nuggets) in a separate draft. Smith chose to sign with the Rockets, and he would play for the team for three seasons.
Many will recall the ABA being the better league back in the day. The style of play and the marketing of its star players was lightyears ahead of the NBA. In fact, much of the way the NBA is marketed today can be traced back to the ABA.
Smith became the Rockets’ starting point guard during his second season. He scored a career-best 11-plus points per game that year, while averaging five-and-a-half assists per game. The next year, he averaged eight assists per game and led the ABA.
In five total seasons with the Denver Rockets and Utah Stars, Smith totaled 3,298 points and 1,793 assists.
In his post-playing career, Smith was a social worker and school counselor and served as an assistant basketball coach at his high school alma mater Manual. He helped lead the team to two state titles.