Spencer Haywood and University of Detroit Mercy Director of Athletics Robert C. Vowels, Jr. before they retire #45 at Calihan Hall in Detroit. (Photo by Tim Busch, Rolco Sports & Entertainment Network)
DETROIT — The University of Detroit-Mercy bestowed a great honor onto Spencer Haywood as they retired his jersey number recently. They held a brief ceremony before the Titans home game (Horizon League) against Northern Kentucky. 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.
From Detroit’s Public School League and Pershing High School to the U.S. Olympic Gold in 1968 to the
University of Detroit then the American Basketball Association and finally to the NBA, Haywood left his
imprint. Haywood said, “I owe a lot to Will Robinson and James and Ida Bell who were foster parents to
me here in Detroit.” Haywood averaged 32 points and 22 rebounds in his sophomore season at the
University of Detroit-Mercy.
Haywood went on to a 12-year NBA career, scoring 19.2 points per game and was a four-time NBA All-
Star. 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
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.”