In Black America Podcast: Standing Up For Something with Spencer Haywood
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with former NBA/ABA star Spencer Haywood. Despite a productive NBA and ABA career, Haywood will always be remembered as the man who opened the door for underclassmen college basketball players to leave college early to play in the NBA, thereby creating the “Spencer Haywood rule.” Haywood attended the University of Detroit and helped the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. In 1968, after two seasons in college, he decided to try to enter the NBA draft, citing family financial hardship. The NBA, however, at the time prohibited players from entering the draft until four years after their high school graduation. The ABA’s Denver Rockets then signed Haywood, where he played for one season, leading that league in scoring as a rookie. Since he now had a professional season under his belt, he decided to challenge the NBA rule once again and signed with the Seattle Supersonics in 1969. Commissioner Walter Kennedy, however, prohibited Haywood from playing any games with the Sonics. Haywood and his agent took the NBA and Kennedy to court and won a decisive, but bittersweet, victory, as Haywood was roundly booed throughout NBA arenas in his first years with the Sonics. Try as he may, Haywood could never shake the controversy of those early years. After several seasons with the Sonics and New York Knicks, he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981. Haywood seemed to be thriving as a veteran role player during the Lakers championship run until it was discovered he was a drug addict. Lakers’ coach Pat Riley suspended Haywood from the postseason and he was cut by the Lakers after their championship. Haywood retired in 1983 after finishing his career with the Washington Bullets.