Wayne Embry Rumors
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the dominant center, wants to be traded. There is nothing the Bucks can do. Sam Gilbert, Abdul-Jabbar’s longtime adviser, does the talking. “Kareem wanted to be traded,” Wayne Embry told the Los Angeles Times in 1987, recounting the night that started the build-up to a trade that shook the NBA 45 years ago. “Of course, it took us by surprise, even though I was somewhat suspicious. Sam further said Kareem wanted to be traded to New York. His second preference was Washington and his third preference L.A.”
That’s how the groundwork was laid for one of the most consequential trades in league history. To this day, its impact cannot be overstated. The Bucks have yet to reach an NBA Finals in the four-plus decades since. The Lakers, who would ultimately land Abdul-Jabbar, used the 1980s to cement themselves as one of the league’s marquee teams — and as a destination for stars with a case of wanderlust.
When trade discussions began that spring, after the Bucks went 38-44, it was unclear where the Knicks stood in the running. There were several rumors at the time that involved Walt Frazier going to Milwaukee, though their legitimacy is uncertain. Albert says Frazier was unhappy in New York at that time. (The Knicks traded him two years later.) The only trade chip the Knicks definitely had was money. After the deal was done, Burke would say the team had offered more than $1.5 million and draft picks for Abdul-Jabbar. They had even made a trip to Milwaukee to negotiate in person. “Well, what is cash going to do for me?” Embry told the Los Angeles Times. “I sent Mike Burke and (GM) Eddie Donovan back to New York with their tails between the legs.”
Adam Silver: I only say that because long before there was even a movement called Black Lives Matter, there was the NBA. There was Bill Russell, there was Oscar Robertson and Wayne Embry and Lenny Wilkens and all these great Black leaders within the league. Part of what I’m focusing on is finding our own voice for next season and putting us in a leadership position on these issues, and—maybe I’m naive to say this—putting us in a role to unify people as well. Now, some people might suggest that the words Black Lives Matter are causing massive amounts of people to tune out the NBA. There’s absolutely no data to support that. And in fact, as I said, there’s no doubt there are some people—and whether or not they were truly our fans to begin with is unclear—who have become further engaged with the league because they believe in our players and they believe in the positions they’ve taken, even if they don’t agree with everything they say. They respect their right to speak out on issues that are important to them.
In his 2004 book, Embry describes himself hearing a slightly different story in a different setting, with Laimbeer as narrator and Embry himself as old-but-intimidating comeback-deliverer: In a different conversation with Laimbeer, he told me that after every game in the [Richfield] Coliseum, as a sign of unity, each of the Pistons would spit on my car, which they passed en route to their bus. He stepped away from me as he told the story, not quite sure how I would react, and he seemed genuinely surprised when I said, “Good for them. It probably needed to be washed anyway.” Embry also says his wife, Terri, was particularly displeased about the spitting because it was all on the passenger side. Whichever version of this story you prefer, it sure sounds like 1989 Pistons — all of them — spat on a car together.
Doug Smith: Such sad news Terri Embry, the wife of the iconic Wayne Embry, has passed away. A dedicated civil rights activist, Terri marched on Selma with Dr. King in 1965 and we know today how important those civil rights fights remain. Deepest condolences to Wayne and the Embry family