SPENCER HAYWOOD BIOGRAPHY
In 1970, Spencer Haywood was the unlikeliest of foes for a sports juggernaut like the National Basketball Association. Twenty year-old Spencer had only left the Jim Crow South five years earlier to capitalize on his God-given basketball talents. The 6’8” basketball phenom quickly made a name for himself by setting records in high school, junior college, the 1968 Olympics, the University of Detroit and the ABA.
But when a closer look at Spencer’s ABA contract forced him to leave the Denver Rockets... he was stuck. The professional player could no longer return to the collegiate level; and due to age restrictions, he was unable to play in the NBA. So how was a young basketball
star– with little formal education - to earn a living so he could release his mother from the Mississippi cotton fields? He felt he had no choice but to challenge the NBA. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and they sided with Spencer. The ultimate underdog from impoverished beginnings opened the league to a new crop of talented young players. But with that, came a hefty price.
Spencer Haywood was one of the best basketball players in the world while with the Seattle Supersonics, the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was the king of the ‘70s Manhattan social scene and his queen was supermodel, Iman. But in the end, Spencer’s career was eventually cut short by addiction. He worked for decades to make things right through recovery, rebuilding communities and through his subsequent work with at-risk youth. But even still, his phenomenal statistics and victorious court case were virtually erased from history. Spencer was silenced and forgotten.
Now, almost 35 years after playing his last NBA game, Spencer’s amazing story culminates with his enshrinement into the 2015 class of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. As Spencer says, “It was on God’s time.”