DETROIT– The University of Detroit-Mercy honored one of its greats recently as they raised #45, Spencer Haywood’s jersey to the rafters and retired his number. They held a brief ceremony before the Titans home game against Northern Kentucky (Horizon League). Haywood was the sixth men’s basketball player to have his jersey retired following Bob Calihan, Dave DeBusschere, John Long, Rashad Phillips and Terry Tyler.
It was a festive night in Calihan Hall as Haywood, 67, reflected on memories of almost 50 years ago. A lot of the narrative of Detroit’s great basketball traditions was discussed and remembered. He went from the Detroit’s Public School League and Pershing High School to U.S. Olympic Gold in 1968, to the University of Detroit, to the American Basketball Association and finally to the NBA. He left a giant imprint, his imprint. “I owe a lot to Will Robinson and James and Ida Bell who were foster parents to me here in Detroit,” Haywood said. Haywood averaged 32 points and 22 rebounds in his sophomore season at the University of Detroit-Mercy. He left after that and made legal history.
“We had such great competition with Mumford High School and Northwestern High School,” Haywood added. “Mumford had Steve Fishman and Larry Moore and Northwestern had John Mayberry and Curtis Moore, they were a handful. Ralph Simpson kept the other teams honest if I was double-teamed. Coach Robinson was already scouting for the (Detroit) Pistons, and he brought Dave Bing and some of the Pistons to practice against us at Pershing. He worked us hard in fundamentals.”
Haywood went on to a 12-year NBA career, scoring 19.2 points per game and was a four-time NBA AllStar. He was a member of the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers in 1980. He also played two seasons in Italy before retiring in 1982. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
What the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame said: “The youngest member of the 1968 gold-medal winning United States Olympic team, and its leading scorer, Spencer Haywood’s journey in basketball was brilliant, though hardly conventional. He enrolled at the University of Detroit after a standout season at Trinidad State Junior College, and after only two years of college basketball, he was poised to take the next step in his basketball life. Haywood left college early and in one spectacular ABA season, Haywood was named Rookie of the Year and MVP while launching an all-out assault on the ABA records books. He set single-season records for rebounds, rebounding average, and minutes played while leading the league in scoring. Haywood then jumped leagues, signing with the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA, and suddenly professional basketball was never the same. NBA rules at that time kept players from turning professional until four years removed from high school. Haywood challenged the NBA, and after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the big kid from Silver City, Mississippi, the NBA instituted the hardship rule thus paving the way for undergraduates, and even high school players, to enter the NBA.”