Terrell Brandon: The Most Under-Rated Cavaliers Player of All-Time

Terrell Brandon Cover - Sports Illustrated February 10, 1997Terrell Brandon was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 11th pick out of the University of Oregon in the summer of 1991.  He went on to play six seasons in Cleveland, but wasn’t handed the basketball as the team’s official lead guard until four years later.  He averaged 9.5 points and 4.2 assists per game, playing just over 22 minutes per night, as a back-up to Mark Price prior to the 1995 season.

During the 1995-96 season, Brandon would be handed the full-time duties as the Cavaliers starting PG and exploded onto the NBA scene immediately.  He averaged 19.4 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds over a course of 153 games during the next two regular seasons, and was named an All Star twice. He led a Cavs team to the playoffs during the 1995-96 season that featured Chris Mills as the team’s second leading scorer, Danny Ferry as the fourth, and brought guys like John Crotty and Harold “Baby Jordan” Miner off the bench.  Depsite that, Brandon had the Cavaliers going a respectable 89-75 during that stretch; a moment in NBA history where Terrell Brandon was considered the best PG in the Association.

The Terrell Brandon chapter is often forgotten, when paging through the history of Cavaliers lore, even though he was awesome. He wasn’t really part of those Mark Price teams (even though he was a solid back-up) and he wasn’t part of the LeBron James years either.  In fact, when Brandon was playing for the Cavaliers, LeBron came to his basketball camp as a 7th grader.  If the galaxies could have realigned somehow, and Brandon could’ve replaced Jeff McInnis, Eric Snow, Damon Jones, Larry Hughes, or even Mo Williams for one season or even two with James…oh well.

The truth is, I’m as guilty as anybody else of actually forgetting how good Brandon was as a member of the Cavaliers too.  I didn’t really start thinking about it again until I interviewed Chauncey Billups for an article I wrote for SLAM Online a few weeks ago.  In a conversation about the Knicks 17th pick overall this past June, Iman Shumpert, Billups told me this about the type of pro that Terrell Brandon was:

“There were a few guys who helped me develop the right mentality to play in this League when I first came in. Guys like Jason Kidd and Tim Hardaway did a lot for me,” Billups added. “I used to talk with those guys about the attitude and the mentality you needed in this game, Sam Cassell was great for me also, but the player who’s done the most for me over my career was Terrell Brandon. I had the pleasure of playing with him for two years in Minneapolis and he made the biggest difference for me of any player in my career. I do plan to pass those things along to Shumpert as well the more we get to know each other.” 

I think Brandon’s overall production as a member of the Cavaliers is widely overlooked too based on the fact that he only started two seasons in Cleveland.  If you don’t believe me, I bet you didn’t realize a two-year starter could be 4th in Assists and 11th in Scoring all time.

Here is where Terrell currently ranks, specifically, on the Cleveland Cavaliers All-Time Career Leader Board:

  • 3rd in Free Throw Percentage (87%)
  • 4th in Total Assists (2,235)
  • 5th in Total Steals (621)
  • 10th in 3-point Field Goals Made (261)
  • 11th in Total Points Scored (5,793)

I’m not bringing this up to necessarily argue that his jersey should be retired, but I am saying maybe a Terrell Brandon Appreciation Night is in order next season at least. There aren’t too many players on the Cavaliers who were ever called into the argument for “best in the NBA” at their respective position – ever.  Whether he was or he wasn’t, Terrell Brandon earned himself a mention in that conversation, which is pretty impressive if you step back and think about it.  Just about every player who’s jersey is hanging in the Quicken Loans rafters never really was in that discussion themselves, expect arguably Brad Daugherty and / or Mark Price, but Brandon definitely was for a minute.

He went on to play for the Milwaukee Bucks for two seasons following 1996-97 campaign in Cleveland, and was traded to Minnesota two years after that.  It was in the Twin Cities he teamed up with Chauncey Billups, and passed along some of what he learned to a young PG who would go on to become a two-time NBA champion.  A champion who never forgot about the good look from Terrell Brandon back in the day, just like Cavs fans shouldn’t forget either.

Terrell now owns and operates a barbershop in Oregon these days, and in an interview with Pro Basketball News last September he talked about his post-basketball life; a career cut short by injuries that forced him to retire in 2002:

“I think at the beginning of your career, you should know what you want to do post your career being over. I got into business at the age of 20 years old, while I was in college, so I knew what I wanted to do when my career was over. The transition of retiring was easy because I had something to fall back on, I’ve been doing it for a long time. I owned my barbershop, and I had my retail store here over twenty years. So, I was already into business management, knowing how to keep my paper work straight, and hiring the proper employees. I would suggest to any player no matter the sport you play, know what you want to do after your playing days.”

Smart player, and a smart guy.  After he went on to refer to himself as not being a superstar, Brandon was reminded by PBN that SI called him the best in the game.  Here was Terrell Brandon’s response was on that last year when asked what he thought about that:

“It was cool, you know? I thought it was fresh. When I found out about it, it was during the ’96 All-Star weekend. So it came out that Thursday. Now when all of the guys are coming in and we’re having the East and West practice, and Sports Illustrated is all around the arena because we’re in Cleveland, my adopted hometown. So SI mags are everywhere and people are wanting me to sign them and I’m looking at (Gary) Payton, and I’m looking at (Tim) Hardaway, (Jason) Kidd, (John) Stockton and they’re looking at me. Now, in my mind, I’m knowing that I have a target. They have been portrayed as being the best and now SI said that I was. So I knew from that point on, that these guys are going to say what’s up to me before the games, but they’re going to try to break my neck and do me when the game starts. So, I accepted it and I just played ball.”

And your adopted hometown of Cleveland still remembers and appreciates your effort too, sir.  Shouts out to Terrell Brandon, and let’s get that Appreciation Night scheduled just as soon as this Lockout ends.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.

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