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Spencer Haywoods Hall of Fame eyes opened by fiery

  • Aug 29
    SPRINGFIELD, Ma s. Spencer Haywood was in a meeting room in Denver. It was late summer 1968, just before one of the most controversial Olympics in history. The topic was a potential boycott of the Mexico City Olympics by black American athletes in protest of racial conditions in the USA. The Olympic walkout i sue had been brewing for more than a year, and there had been Moses Malone Jersey a succe sful boycott of the annual New York Athletic Club meet months earlier.Amid the anti-establishment fervor, Olympic hero Je se Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Gamesheld in Nazi Germany, strode into the room. The athletes fell silent.Finally, Owens spoke: Yall are here thinking about boycotting these Olympics? You are talking about doing some revolutionary thing? Owens shook his head and asked, How would any of you sons-of-bitches do if you had to run before Hitler?MORE: |For Haywood and most in attendance that was all it took to suppre s the boycott talk. In the end, the black-gloved raised fists of sprinters John Carlos and Tommy Smith were the only acts of revolution by the athletes at the Games.That was good thing for Haywood, because those Olympics kicked off a remarkable journey that led to his induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame here this weekend. Haywood might be best known for his lawsuit against the NBA that allowed him to play despite just one year in junior college and one year at Detroit, and the subsequent 14-year pro career that saw him average 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. But it was the 1968 Olympics that first put him on the basketball map.Ask Haywood about those Games, and he pulls out his cell phone and shows a screenshot of a graphic with the record-holders for most points scored in an Olympics. So you dont think I was just another dude on that Olympic team, Jerryd Bayless Jersey he explains. He was no regular dude. Haywood scored a record 145 points in 1968, a mark that stood until Kevin Durant scored 156 in the 2012 Olympics. That guy shot 3-pointers, so that doesnt count, Haywood said. Im giving him an asterisk.Before the Olympics, Haywood had been at Trinidad Junior College in Colorado, and was all but an unknown among NBA scouts. When black players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Bob Lanier, Neal Walk and others pulled out of the Olympic team not nece sarily calling it a boycott, though all had been influenced by Black-rights firebrand profe sor Harry Edwards of San Jose State Haywood suddenly became the focal point of that Olympic group.Haywood, who came from a family of cotton sharecroppers in Mi si sippi, said he was approached by Edwards, too. Edwards told him, Youre just a cotton-picker for the man. Haywood smiled and replied, Howd you know my family background? And Haywood gave little more thought to the boycott thereafter.He regrets nothing. I understood where they were coming from, he said. I was from the South. But I didnt think what they were planning to do was the best way to make progre s on that.JOHN CALIPARI, IN DEPTH: | | | | Robert Covington Jersey The defections of prominent collegiate players left Team USA in an unfamiliar spot. The Americans had never lost an Olympic basketball game, but here, they were underdogs. The group went on a pre-Olympic European tour through Moscow, Belgrade and Helsinki, was roundly knocked around, losing to both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Some projected them to finish fourth, behind the Soviets, the Yugoslavs and even Brazil.But on returning to American soil, Team USA faced the Knicks in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden and pulled a shocking upset, winning 65-64 in overtime. Haywood scored 17 points, nearly outdoing the Willis Reed-Walt Bellamy frontcourt (which scored 18 points) himself. The New York Times observed that Haywoods point production was almost secondary to his poise, jumping ability and second-effort desire.That was when Howard Cosell, who was going to beat us up, media-wise, changed his tune, Haywood remembered, doing his best Cosell impre sion. He started saying, Theres a po s-i-bility these kids might Jahlil Okafor Jersey be all right.They certainly were. Team USA, featuring three players who had been drafted into the Army, and only three prominent collegiansJo Jo White (who is also being inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend), Bill Hosket and Ken Spainstarted the tournament with three routs, by an average of 37.7 points.They won their anticipated rematch against Yugoslavia by 15 points, and went on to beat Brazil in the semifinals. When the Yugoslavs shocked the Soviets in their semifinal match, the U.S. again toppled Yugoslavia in the gold-medal game, by 15 points.After the final, Haywood was no longer such an unknown, no longer a Charles Barkley Jersey stand-in for Abdul-Jabbar and Hayes. Yugoslav coach Ranko Zeravica said of him, Spencer Haywood is the best amateur player in the world.Weeks later, Haywood began his career at Detroit, where he averaged 32.1 points and 22.1 rebounds in his only collegiate season. Now, 47 years later, he is slated for hoops immortality. But it was the games in Mexico City that started it all.I dont know how things would have gone without those Olympics, he said. The Olympics, they changed everything for me.