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NBA / Mar 20, 2012 / 4:30 pm

National Treasure: The Spencer Haywood Story

Spencer Haywood

Spencer Haywood (photo. Spencer Haywood)

*Spencer Haywood is a revolutionary for social change, a forefather of the sports entertainment business, and during his 13-year career in the NBA and ABA, was arguably the most talented basketball player of all time. Don’t believe it? Go straight to the source and ask.

We did, and this story can be found in the newest issue of Dime, Dime #68, on newsstands now…*

*** *** ***

In Spencer Haywood’s line of work, victories come beautifully, yet quietly.

They come in the reflection of his 62-year-old face on a spotless marble floor; in the soft embrace of plush carpet under the gun boats he calls feet; in the simplistic symmetry of perfectly-placed tiles from wall to wall; in the rhythmic clicking and clacking of stiletto heels and Stacy Adams soles across a Las Vegas hotel lobby.

The thing is, Spencer Haywood is not wired to win quietly.

The man who averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during a 12-year career in the NBA – not to mention 30.0 points and 19.5 rebounds in his one-year reign in the ABA – will gladly relay those stats to you. He’ll remind you that he made four NBA All-Star teams and four All-NBA teams, that he won a championship with the 1980 L.A. Lakers, that he won an Olympic gold medal in 1968, and that he collected regular-season MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Rookie of the Year in his lone ABA season.

He can tell you so much that he’ll forget to mention that he also used to be married to supermodel and fashion icon Iman.

More importantly, Haywood will remind you that his road to professional basketball meant more to the sport than any of his accomplishments on the court.

He will remind you that he was the plaintiff in Haywood v. National Basketball Association, the antitrust action he filed that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 and forced the NBA to eliminate its rule barring any player from entering the league before their college class graduated. Haywood – the 6-8 power forward who first attempted to go pro following his sophomore year at the University of Detroit – will remind you that he is one of the most important historical figures in sports.

“I want my legacy to be two things,” says Haywood from his office at Haywood Group LLC, his Vegas-based company specializing in floor installations.

“In 1968, when America was struggling and she didn’t know what to do, I stepped up,” he goes on. “Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] decided he wasn’t going to play in the Olympics. Elvin Hayes wasn’t going. Wes Unseld wasn’t going. We were gonna lose to the world for the first time in the history of basketball. But I stepped up and said, ‘No you won’t. I’ll lead you.’ They were like, ‘What are you, crazy? You’re 18 years old!’ But I saved America in 1968.”

And the second thing?

“I created wealth and opportunity in the NBA by breaking the four-year rule,” says Haywood. “There were only 16 teams back then, and now we have 30. It’s a larger pool of talent because of me. They also used my ruling to change the NFL. I’ve been implanted in history, man. I want people to remember that … that somebody made a sacrifice.”

But before you write off these declarations of grandeur as the typical war-story exaggerations or harmless embellishments of an old-timer, do your research. Look it up. Then believe.

Because everything Spencer Haywood is saying is true.

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