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Commentary: William Buford leaves a complicated legacy at Ohio State

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

NEW ORLEANS – Have you ever watched a movie and not really understood what happened when it was over?

William Buford is like that movie.

He was at Ohio State four years and now that his career is over, I’m still not completely sure what I just saw.

His career had more ups and downs than Kirstie Alley’s weight and was a role model for being consistently inconsistent.

There were times when he was the best player on the floor and times when coach Thad Matta couldn’t get him off the floor fast enough.

So how should we remember Buford? What’s his legacy?

To me, Buford’s legacy comes down to one word.

But.

Everything good you can say about him has a draw back. I’m not sure what it was, but something was always restraining him from being truly great.

Buford scored 1,900 points in his career and is tied for third OSU’s all-time scoring list with Jerry Lucas.

But he was never the leading scorer on his team.

He won 116 games in his career and his teams had a winning percentage of .800.

But in the biggest of games with the most on the line, it wasn’t uncommon for Buford to lay an egg.

He helped lead his team to two No. 2 seeds and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But he never won a championship.

The fact is, anyone can make a factual argument that Buford was one of the greatest players to ever step on the hardwood at OSU.

People 100 years from now who never watched him might look back at the record books and hold that opinion. They might think his jersey should be hanging from the rafters.

But to truly understand Buford, you had to watch him.

One thing about the legends is they always stick out. They’re always memorable. Whether they played great or poorly, you always had a feeling of their performance walking out of the gym.

Some games, Buford’s play was just flat out forgettable. You could leave the arena, turn to the guy next to you and ask, “Where was Buford tonight?”

It was as if he didn’t play.

Then he would come out the next game and drop 25 points.

From beginning to end, Buford was an enigma.

That’s not to say he didn’t do a lot of great things during his time at OSU. He had opportunities to go to the NBA, but returned and is getting his degree at the end of this quarter.

None of his teammates or coaches ever had anything remotely negative to say about him and former walk-on Mark Titus called him his favorite teammate of all-time in his new book.

When the final buzzer sounded Saturday and Buford’s career was over, he sat down on the floor. It was all over for him.

Maybe Buford’s legacy can best be summed up in the state of the program he’s leaving behind.

The common adage is to leave things better than you find them.

When Buford came to OSU in 2008, the Buckeyes were coming off a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. OSU lost in the National Championship in 2007, but were far from a national power.

In 2012, OSU might not be an elite basketball program, but they have emerged as a consistent force just about every year and show no signs of that stopping.

In short, the program is in better shape than when he arrived.

So, what exactly was William Buford?

Well, he was very, very good.

But.

He wasn’t great.

 

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