Wayne Embry Rumors
Every night I watch Giannis Antetokounmpo and feel like I see him do something I’ve never seen before in each game he plays. Did watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar develop in Milwaukee feel the same way? What was it like watching him develop as a player? Wayne Embry: You watched greatness every night. From high school to college through the pros, you just watched his greatness. The league hadn’t seen a person his size and length with the skill and the ability to do as many things on the basketball court as he could. I just remember that hook shot in the corner in the sixth game against Boston; you didn’t see many guys do that. He just hooked the ball, that hook shot he was famous for. Left or right. He could dribble. He could just do so many things on the basketball court from high school on. I had seen him play in high school because when I was a player, we practiced at Harlem Memorial High School where he went to high school in New York. So, we got a chance to see him – not in games – but in practices and that sort of thing and then, of course, we saw him a lot at UCLA. Milwaukee had greatness. They have greatness now too.
Colangelo leaned on one of his mentors, Pete Newell, a legendary coach and basketball luminary. Newell visited Phoenix and Colangelo presented his concerns and general goals the afternoon prior to a Suns game, and the conversation continued at the arena and over a glass of wine following the game. The next morning, Newell delivered a six-page outline on the various concepts and ideas laid out over the course of the previous day. Soon after, in the early spring, Colangelo’s committee, which included heavy hitters such as Jerry West, Wayne Embry, Jack Ramsay and Rod Thorn, in addition to a handful of active coaches and general managers, convened at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The committee plowed through the proposals, which included requiring teams to bring the ball over half court in eight seconds rather than 10. (Colangelo had suggested seven seconds.) The NBA’s illegal defense rule, which had existed in one form or another to prohibit zone defenses since the league’s earliest days, was scrapped. Instead, the committee proposed the defensive three-second rule, preventing defenders from loitering in the paint but allowing them to defend an area rather than an opponent elsewhere on the court.
Wayne Embry remembers like it happened yesterday. Now 80 years old and a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, Embry recalled how, when he was the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks in the early ’70s, he lobbied the team’s hierarchy to draft an insanely athletic player from the East Coast.That was Julius Erving, aka Dr. J. If not for some legal issues and some behind-the-scenes shenanigans, Erving would have joined the Bucks and, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, formed perhaps the greatest triumvirate of players ever assembled.
“Now fast forward, in 1972, I’m the general manager of the Bucks and we had two draft picks that year. So I told ownership that I was going to draft – I forget the player we drafted (Russell Lee of Marshall with the sixth overall selection) — but, with the second pick in the first round, I said I would like to draft Julius Erving. I told them he’s playing in the ABA (with the Virginia Squires) and he’s going to be a great player. “They didn’t know who he was. They had never heard of him. They said, ‘Are you sure want to waste a draft pick on him?’ And, again, I told him he is playing in the ABA; that’s when the ABA just started out, and that I think we just ought to take a chance and draft him because we don’t know if the ABA is going to last.
“Well, I sat there and sat there and sat there and eventually I saw a person come out of his office and head down the hallway the other way. Well, it was Pat Williams of Philadelphia 76ers. And so I go in to talk with Irwin and he said, ‘Wayne, we just signed with Philadelphia.’ So Doc never came to Milwaukee but we did get a second round pick from Atlanta and with that pick we signed Alex English, yet another hall of famer. “From what I understand, the reason why he didn’t want to come to Milwaukee was because he didn’t want to be the third wheel behind Oscar (Robertson) and Abdul-Jabbar. That’s what he said later on. He wanted to be his own man and have his own team. We also had (Bob) Dandridge on our team and he was a very good player, too. (a five-time All-Star).
NBA.com: What do you remember about Jerry Krause? Wayne Embry: He was a hard worker. Whether it be his work in the NBA or his work in baseball. Very much attended to detail, too. He was, I would think for his time, innovative in his approach, looking for things other people may not have thought to look for. Players’ extended family, that sort of thing. He was really dedicated to what he did.