The ABA and NBA veteran recounts his days in both leagues and his successful antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, allowing underclassmen to be eligible for the draft.
MAGGIE GRAY: When you were battling in court for the right to [leave college and] turn pro, did you think it would take the shape that it has?
SPENCER HAYWOOD: The ABA allowed me to play that first year [after I left the University of Detroit at the end of my sophomore year], making an exemption, and then all of the players started coming out. Julius Erving, George Gervin, Moses Malone, all of those guys were coming into the ABA, not the NBA. Sam Schuman, the owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, said, "Well, if we don't fight for these guys to play, we are going to lose this case." And so the fight just went on and on. It was sold to the public that [leaving college early] would be the downfall of college basketball. It would be the downfall of professional basketball because you would have a lot of unskilled players coming in, you would have an influx of black athletes coming in. So there was just a lot of stuff going on. That fight took a complete year. [After I joined the Sonics in 1970] I was thrown out of several arenas. When I would walk on the floor, they would make an announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have an illegal player on the floor, number 24, and he must be escorted off the grounds."
July 27, 2015
MG: That's so dramatic. I can't imagine what that would be like.
SH: It was horrible. I was 20 years old. One night we played the Bulls, and their whole team walked off the floor because their owners didn't want me to set sight on their players.
For more of Haywood's interview, plus the SI Now archive, go to SI.com/sinow
"One night we played the Bulls, and their whole team walked off the floor."
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