Spencer Haywood to enter 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame

140402160344-20140402-spencer-haywood-feature-00042129.1200x672For national and international fans who have followed the storied basketball career of former ABA and NBA player Spencer Haywood, they know that he should have been in the Basketball Hall of Fame a long time ago.
On the weekend of September 10 -12, 2015, the 6-foot-8 Haywood will finally take his rightful spot in the Hall. Haywood, 66, will be joined by10 other inductees to round out this year’s class.
Born in Silver City, Miss., Haywood came to Detroit via Chicago in his early teens. His older brother LeRoy was living in Detroit but was playing college basketball at Bowling Green State University. It was LeRoy who arranged for legendary Pershing High School head coach Will Robinson to see the Mississippi teen play at the famed Kronk Recreation Center. Robinson saw and later enrolled Haywood at Pershing.
“Will Robinson was one of the most important people in my life,” Haywood said. “Will Robinson adopted me, raised me, trained me, educated me, and prepared me for this life. He did a wonderful job.”
With Haywood in the fold, Pershing won the Class A State Championship in 1967, something that a Detroit Public High School had not done in almost four decades. After graduation, Haywood played at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado where he averaged 28.2 points and 22.1 rebounds per game.
If the world didn’t know Haywood’s game by then, global eyes opened wide when he led the 1968 U.S. Olympic Basketball team to a gold medal in Mexico City after marquee players like Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Wesley Unseld, and Elvin Hayes boycotted the Games to support a growing Black movement fighting for equality in America. Nevertheless, Haywood led the Olympic team in just about every offensive and defensive statistical category; some of his posted Olympic numbers have never been surpassed. Following Mexico City, every college basketball powerhouse in America wanted Spencer Haywood, but he chose the University of Detroit.
Sources said that Haywood agreed to play for U of D because Robinson would be hired as head coach. Haywood averaged 32.1 points per game and led the nation in rebounding at 21.5 per contest, but the school hired another head coach instead of Robinson.
“He (Robinson) was a little upset with being passed over at U of D,” recalled Haywood. “That’s when he told me to consider going pro, something that I was ready to do. So we headed to Denver to play for the Denver Rockets.”
Haywood was able to play for the Rockets because the ABA didn’t require players to play four years of college basketball before turning pro, unlike the rule the NBA was enforcing. During his rookie year, Haywood scored 30.0 points, grabbed almost 20 rebounds per game, and was named both ABA Rookie of the Year and MVP. It was obvious that Haywood could play with anybody, even if that anybody was in the NBA.
In 1970, with the NBA’s four-year collegiate eligibility rule still intact, Haywood signed with the Seattle Supersonics. The NBA strategically and ferociously attempted to block Haywood from playing. The Supersonics’ owner, Sam Schulman, along with Haywood, filed an anti-trust suit which became known as Haywood v. National Basketball Association.
In March of 1971, The U.S. Supreme Court agreed that Haywood had a right to play in the NBA, despite the league’s four years of college rule. The NBA relented. Haywood went on to pave the way for such future players as Darryl Dawkins, Isiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and many more to enter the NBA without playing four years of college basketball.
Haywood enjoyed a superstar career with such ABA and NBA teams as the Denver Rockets, Seattle Supersonics, New York Knicks, New Orleans Jazz, and Los Angeles Lakers, the last of which he won a world championship with in 1980. Haywood retired in 1983 with the Washington Bullets. His overall ABA and NBA numbers are astounding: 17,111 points scored (20.3 ppg) and 8.675 rebounds (10.3 rpg). He is a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA First Team and two-time All-NBA Second Team.
So why did it take so long for such a great ABA and NBA player to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame? Some NBA insiders point to Haywood’s victory in the Supreme Court as greatly upsetting the NBA. Other long-time followers of the NBA and NCAA blame Haywood for destroying collegiate basketball 44 years ago with the ruling, which they think has weakened the overall talent in the NBA to this day.
Regardless of the reasons, Spencer Haywood, the pride of Pershing High School, is finally going where all great NBA superstars belong: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I honestly thought that I would have gone in the Hall 27 years ago,” said Haywood, who splits times between Detroit and Las Vegas. “Yet, God knows what the best time is, and I trust in how He continues to guide my life. My induction was on God’s time, and I’m good with that.”


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