Spencer Haywood Rumors

“The NCAA is still mad at me. The NBA is still mad at me for suing them. Everybody still holds some little resentment. The NCAA sees me and coaches see me, they say, ‘Dammit, I would have had these guys for four years if it wasn’t for that guy right there.’ ” It’s an exaggeration. The NBA and the Hall are tight. All David Stern or Adam Silver had to do was nod in the direction of Springfield and Haywood’s application paperwork would have been misplaced years ago. Jerry Colangelo, the ultimate NBA insider as a former owner and current head of Team USA, championed Haywood’s candidacy and made sure he is invited when USA Basketball makes camp in Las Vegas most summers.
He would not leave the house. In the house, he took the phone anytime he dared leave the couch. Even with the phone in a breast pocket, he was hesitant to use the bathroom, in case the call came at an inopportune time. The call came. Spencer Haywood, at home in Las Vegas last Wednesday, was back on the couch. John Doleva, the president of the Hall of Fame, was on the other end, in Springfield, Mass. Good news. It was April Fool’s Day, and Haywood did not flinch. It was years in coming, maybe even decades, and Haywood did not hesitate. “He said, ‘Spencer, you’re in,’ ” Haywood recalled. “And we both yell out at each other like, ‘Glory be to God!’ What a beautiful thing. Because I had faced the other side of it. He would always say, ‘The cream always rises to the top.’ I’d say, ‘But Kareem is not here.’
Haywood v. National Basketball Association went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Haywood’s favor in 1971. The sides settled out of court, allowing Haywood to stay with Seattle, and the NBA implemented an exception to its rule for players who could prove financial hardship. As a 21-year-old NBA rookie, Haywood had been ridiculed, degraded and sued. He had also changed the face of pro and college ball, paving the way for many like him to use the sport as a way out of poverty. Welcome to the NBA, kid. “Remember, I’m from Silver City, Miss.,” Haywood said. “If I hadn’t seen it there, I wasn’t going to see it in life. God had prepared me since I was a kid.”
“Denver was so exciting, and still is,” recalled Haywood, who got his first taste of Colorado playing at Trinidad State Junior College. “When I decided to come back to (Colorado), well, I was just like a rabbit being thrown into the briar patch. “I loved Denver. I grew up in Denver.” This is how he remembers a city he still calls home, despite having been raised in Mississippi and now owning residences in Michigan and Las Vegas. After all, playing in Denver led to him becoming one of the greatest professional basketball players in history. A pioneer.
He arrived on the pro scene as a firebrand. He left as a drug user. “Spencer Haywood had his issues,” said Colangelo, the former Phoenix Suns’ owner and perhaps Haywood’s biggest advocate to get into the hall of fame. “But I think he has come full circle. … He’s paid his dues.” Haywood said that he’s learning to let it all go, realizing that constantly hoping he’ll be recognized — by the hall, by today’s players, by the Nuggets franchise — is an unfulfilling pursuit. “In time, it’ll come,” he said.
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Kentucky coach John Calipari and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo are among the finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2015 class. The Hall of Fame announced its 2015 nominees Saturday. The Class of 2015 will be announced April 6. Calipari and Mutombo are joined by longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta, five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, three-time All-Star Kevin Johnson, three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, seven-time All-Star Jo Jo White, four-time All-Star Spencer Haywood, former NBA coach Bill Fitch and high school coaches Robert Hughes and Leta Andrews as finalists.
“I was all right when I saw Kobe (Bryant), and Kevin Garnett and those guys come in (straight out of high school),” said Haywood, who juggles his time between running his construction company, feeding his part-time jazz musician habit and taking pride in four adult daughters. “I was kind of skeptical, saying, ‘Ah, this Haywood rule is being taken a little out of context here.’ But when (the 2001 NBA draft) had DeSagana Diop, Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler … there were five of them who came out (of high school), and not one of them made it. “I mean how can the league keep taking these kinds of hits, where out of your top five picks not one of them made it? Now Tyson Chandler caught fire and hit later, you know? But the rest of those guys didn’t make it in the NBA (as high-level players).”
Nine years after he won a groundbreaking case against the league that paved the way for players to enter directly from high school, his drug addiction led to his removal from the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship team in 1980 during the darkest of periods for him and so many others. “I was in there in the beginning and Commissioner (David) Stern came in and he needed a poster boy for the drugs that had permeated the NBA in my time, and I was it,” Haywood told USA TODAY Sports.
The NBA doesn’t have a Hall of Fame, leaving the duty of honoring its all-time greats to the Basketball Hall of Fame – an organization hung up on honoring players and coaches (way too many coaches) based on accomplishments at lesser levels. Its processes are both screwed up and secretive (though maybe the former will get marginally better). Advice: Never predict who will be enshrined, and don’t dwell on who should be enshrined. It doesn’t make sense and won’t make sense. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a few moments to honor those elected in what’s still a huge honor. Five former NBA players were finalists this year, and two were reportedly elected. In: Alonzo Mourning Mitch Richmond Out: Tim Hardaway Kevin Johnson Spencer Haywood
And then when I got to Italy I was like, “What the hell am I doing over here?” I’m going over here to a foreign country and, you know, “What the hell?” I flew into Venice, and the Venice airport is on the mainland, and the city is out in the ocean, so it was like, “Shit.” I have seen redemption in my life. I mean, I’ve experienced it. I was walking the path. I know about God. But it was just leaving that baggage, leaving your luggage alone. You know, you’re dropping your bags right there and saying, “Hey, I know what I need to do. I know who’s waiting for me.” Through the Lakers, through Jerry Buss, through Bill Sharman, God intervened and sent me off to Italy in order for me to get my sanity. Italy was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I mean, there was a thought about this. It was not a plot per se that you went and sat outside his house waiting for him to come out. They’re more like, you know, “Spike his drink” or “Spike his car” or something. We did drive down to Palos Verdes and we looked around, and when I came back I got high. My mother called and she said, “Hey boy, what the hell are you up to?” And my paranoia, as I was explaining before about the drug, is that everybody knew what I was doing, including my mother. So what was going in my mind was unholy, ungodly and not clear at all, so I knew my mother was onto it. When I got back, I did some more coke, and that’s when I hit rock bottom, when I realized what the hell I was thinking about. It wasn’t an act. I didn’t attempt to do anything. But it was an evil intent. I know my God is watching me at this time. And I really went off my rocker.
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In 1988, Haywood, with writer Scott Ostler, revealed in People magazine that he’d considered killing Lakers coach Paul Westhead, who had suspended Haywood indefinitely after Game 3 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Haywood had gotten into a shouting match with teammates Brad Holland and Jim Chones after the game. As a result of his suspension, he explained in People, “I turned all my anger toward Westhead,” who had taken over as interim coach after Jack McKinney was nearly killed in a bike accident. Haywood goes on to write: “I left the Forum and drove off in my Rolls that night thinking one thought—that Westhead must die. I drove through the streets plotting the man’s murder. In the heat of anger and the daze of coke, I phoned an old friend of mine in Detroit, a guy named Gregory, a genuine certified gangster. I said, ”C’mon out here, buddy. I got someone I want you to take care of.’ He said, ‘No problem, Wood. Love to do that for you.’ The next day Greg and his partner flew to L.A., ready to go to work. We sat down and figured it out. Westhead lived in Palos Verdes, and we got his street address. We would sabotage his car, mess with his brake lining.”
You know, cocaine is a very fast, demonic … I mean, I was always uncomfortable. I was always very uncomfortable with the idea, because I was paranoid. And paranoia is like an uncomfortableness. It was like just the weirdest thing. I mean, I never was like … if I took a puff of coke … I mean, it would be like, all of a sudden I’m paranoid. I’m looking for somebody coming out of a light bulb. I’m crawling on the floor looking around for other coke and shit. It was just never … whatever people felt, I didn’t feel it. But after the first time I did it, I wanted to do it the second time. And after I did it the second time I wanted to do it the third time. So basically I was hooked on the devil’s juice. It was hard. It was not like a passing fancy. It was really hard. And I was running with some hard people who didn’t know any better either. You know I was listening to rock music in 1980? There ain’t nothing wrong with rock, but I had been a jazz man all my life, so what was I doing? I’m talking about the Doors, like “This is the end.” I loved that song. “This is the end, my friend.” I’m like, What the hell?
New York was where I met my first wife, Iman. We had a good time. In New York I expanded upon my horizons and I saw a lot of live artists. I saw the plays. I mean, it was so culturally enriching, and I read so much there. My first baby was born at Lenox Hill Hospital. All these wonderful things, you know. New York and Seattle was like a very fruitful period for me, with fruitful growth. We go through Seattle. We go through the Knicks. And when I got to Los Angeles … I fell. I wanted to be in charge. You know, God’s path was boring. I didn’t do nothing. I was just playing basketball and eating right, doing the right thing. I wanted to see what the devil was like. The whole thing started off wrong.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on being named a finalist for the 2014 Basketball Hall of Fame: Via official statement from his office: “It is a tremendous honor to be chosen as a finalist for the Hall of Fame and I am sincerely humbled. It is especially gratifying to be recognized by the Committee for all of the hard work and effort we all put into the game. To be considered along with three great peers of mine, Tim (Hardaway), (Alonzo Mourning, and (Mitch Richmond), as well as (Spencer Haywood), is icing on the cake,” said Johnson.
The memo’s author argues that Hansen could successfully sue the NBA because if owners vote to reject the sale of the team to him, they would be engaging in a similar group boycott that the Supreme Court ruled was illegal in the Haywood case. But all that may, literally, be an academic exercise. A source directly involved with Hansen’s pursuit of the team reiterated Friday that Hansen is not looking at potential litigation as a means for getting the Kings. “It’s not part of anything that our group is contemplating,” the source said.
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A memo obtained by NBA.com details a potential framework for legal action, citing the Sherman Act’s prohibition against group boycotts. In this instance, the (unauthored) memo argues, the league would be vulnerable to a lawsuit by the Hansen group based on the Haywood case won by Spencer Haywood against the league in 1971. That case allowed Haywood to sign a contract to play in the NBA despite not having graduated from college, the existing rule at the time for eligibility. Haywood successfully argued that financial hardship necessitated him coming into the league immediately.
“John Doleva and I spoke a little after it was all said and done, and he was consoling me pretty good,” Haywood says. “It will happen. I have faith in the Hall that they will do the right thing. I really do. It’s just that …” Just that what? “When they say ‘You gotta wait, you gotta wait’ — hell, I have waited. Since 1988,” Haywood says. “And the pain is a mother. I don’t want to give anyone an excuse to say, ‘Hey, let’s really [work] him over now.’ But how long do I wait? How long?”
So how could there still be confusion on Haywood’s part by Friday when he should’ve gotten the bad news Wednesday? “Ask him,” says Ross. “I don’t know — I can’t be a private eye, running my mouth or running around, trying to figure out what happened,” Haywood says. “I don’t think the Hall needs banged on the head anymore … For a while last week, I was on top of the world, and the next day my pockets were dragging on the ground. It was embarrassing. Then I ran into Gary Payton and some of the guys at Friedman’s Shoes in Atlanta [a longtime destination for basketball players], and I felt that all this controversy took something away from their journey. I felt like a heel in a way, you know?”