On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Spencer Haywood, ABA/NBA legend and Hall of Famer.
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 pros, thereby creating the "Spencer Haywood rule."
In 1964, Haywood moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1967, while attending Pershing High School, Haywood led the school's basketball team to the Class A State Championship, something that a Detroit Public High School had not done in almost four decades.
He attended Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colorado, during the 1967-68 college season, where he averaged 28.2 points and 22.1 rebounds per game. Due to his exceptional performance and talent, Haywood made the USA Olympic Basketball team in 1968. Haywood was the leading scorer on the USA's gold medal winning basketball team during the 1968 Olympics at 16.1 points per game, and he set a USA field goal percentage record of .719.
Haywood transferred to the University of Detroit in the fall of that year, and led the NCAA in rebounding with a 21.5 average per game while scoring 32.1 points per game during the 1968-69 season. He decided to turn pro after his sophomore year, but National Basketball Association rules, which then required a player to wait until his class graduated, prohibited him from entering the league. As a result, he joined the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association.
Haywood retired from the NBA in 1983 after finishing his career with the Washington Bullets. His overall ABA and NBA numbers are impressive: 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. He won a NBA Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980.