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From 7 Mile And Ryan Road To The Naismith Hall Of Fame: Spencer Haywood

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Spencer Haywood, NBA/ABA legend and Hall-of-Famer.

Haywood will always be remembered as the person who opened the door for underclassmen college basketball players to leave college early to enter the NBA, thereby creating the "Spencer Haywood rule."

Born in 1949, Haywood was the eighth of 10 children with a single mother in Silver City, Mississippi, a tiny town where the racial lines were starkly drawn and a future beyond the cotton fields was hard to imagine.

Taking the opportunity to leave the stifling conditions in the rural South, Haywood at age 15 went to Chicago and then to Detroit to live with his brother. In the Motor City, he led Pershing High School to the 1967 Michigan Class A championship, something a Detroit Public High School had not done in almost four decades.

He attended the University of Detroit and helped the U.S. Olympic team win a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. In 1969, after two years 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. Haywood then signed with the ABA's Denver Rockets, where he played one season, leading the league in scoring and rebounding 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 him from playing any games with the Sonics. Haywood challenged the league all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.

On September 11, 2015, Haywood was inducted into the NaismithMemorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

John L. Hanson is the producer and host of the nationally syndicated radio series In Black America. It’s heard on home station KUT at 10 p.m. Tuesdays and 6:30 a.m. Sundays — and weekly on close to 20 stations across the country. The weekly podcast of IBA, the only nationally broadcast Black-oriented public affairs radio program, is one of KUT’s most popular podcasts.