Tavares adds records in quest for Cup

DAVID W. UNKLE -- Special to SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Unlike many athletes in professional sports, Buffalo Bandits' forward, John Tavares has always placed team accomplishments over individual performance.

Not surprising then, is the fact that the Toronto, Ont. native, now in his 14th season of professional lacrosse, is one of the National Lacrosse League's most respected players.

His game achievements, becoming the first player to surpass the 500 assist threshold and the quickest player to reach 1,000 points, secures his foothold among box lacrosse's elite players.

"It a high compliment to be mentioned in the same sentence as (Colorado's) Gary Gait; he's one of the greatest lacrosse players of all-time."

A modest sort, Tavares downplayed the significance of his recent accomplishment.

"I'm not much of a statistics guy but it's nice that (the records) are happening while (the Buffalo Bandits) are enjoying a good season."

He was also quick to add that "both feats are showing my age."

Tavares is hardly showing signs of slowing down.

At the All-Star break, Tavares is second in the league in scoring (23G, 33A), ten points behind John Grant, Jr. and four points ahead of Shawn Williams.

Of note, both Rochester players are six years younger than Tavares.

Yet, as he approaches his 37th birthday, Tavares yearns for another championship.

It was 1992 when he compiled 43 points (21G, 22A) in an eight-game season then became unstoppable in the playoffs.

In three games, Tavares tallied 12 goals to go along with 12 assists, including the overtime goal that gave the Bandits their first-ever championship.

His resume includes back-to-back MVP seasons in 2000 and 2001 in the NLL (he was also MVP in the former Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1994).

He was the first player to tally 100 points in a season.

And he's the first to say that he remembers "more of his mistakes" than his feats.

The 2004-05 season poses a new challenge for Tavares.

He's wearing the "A" with the Bandits, preparing to pass the torch to some of the younger Buffalo players such as Delby Powless.

"I try and talk as much as I can to the younger players," said Tavares.

"I'm not a motivator in the locker room; I just try and keep things positive and go out on the floor and lead by example."

Tavares is enthusiastic about the league's U.S. network deal for the All-Star game and the championship game with NBC giving the league unprecedented coverage throughout North America.

He closed out Saturday's All-Star contest with three goals and one assist, including the game-winner.

"I think lacrosse has a lot to offer; there's plenty of scoring and hard-hitting, fast action."

While he talks of life after lacrosse and his desire to stay in the game, the championship is the only thing on his mind this season.

"Buffalo hasn't won in a long time and so that's where my attention is."

David W. Unkle is a freelance sports writer and frequent contributor to SLAM! Sports. His work appears on several news outlets along with hosting The Topcat Sports Show in the Philadelphia market. David can be contacted via the Show's website at http://www.topcatsports.org or topcatsports@canoemail.com.


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