Charles Barkley once said the Hall of Fame would always be incomplete until Spencer Haywood was inaugurated. Later today, the Hall of Fame will finally be complete, at least in Barkley’s eyes, as Haywood will be enshrined alongside the likes of John Calipari, Jo Jo White and Dikembe Mutombo. Haywood is of course most well known for his barrier-breaking entry into the NBA after just one year in college at Detroit, as his challenge of the league’s eligibility rules opened the door for high school and underclassmen to jump straight to the league. (Haywood started his post-college career in the more informal ABA, before making the jump to the NBA the next year when the SuperSonics poached him from Denver.)
But, as Haywood tells ESPN’s Scoop Jackson, he wants to be known for more than just his off-court eligibility contribution. He wants people to remember that he was a pretty great player, too.
“Oh, I’m going to let them know! My game was the sh*t,” he said. “At the end of my speech, I’m going to tell them, ‘Wait a minute now.’ I want these young players to know, I had serious game! All you have to do is pull up the numbers. The numbers will bear it out.”
The numbers do bear it out. Here are just a few of Haywood’s on-court accomplishments: ABA MVP and All-Star MVP, a two-time All-NBA Second Team selection, four-time NBA All-Star, NBA champion in 1980 with the Lakers, and freakish averages of over 20 points and 10 rebounds for a half decade. He also, as Jackson notes, had the American record for most points scored in a single Olympics before Kevin Durant broke it in 2012. Those are, without question, Hall of Fame credentials.
Haywood’s induction is a long time coming, too long for some. It was truly bizarre to see multiple classes containing players who otherwise might not have been there without Haywood. With that error finally corrected, we can now give Haywood his proper due as one of the pioneers of basketball – both on and off the court.