Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Spencer Haywood's Amazing Season

(this is the first in a series of posts about my Denver Sports Memories)

The pro basketball team in our town once had a player who averaged 30 points and 19.1 rebounds for the entire season! And that player changed the face of basketball forever.  Spencer Haywood put up those gaudy numbers for the American Basketball Association Rockets during his only season in Denver (1969-1970).

Back in the 1960’s the NBA had a rule that college players could not enter their league until the player completed his college eligibility.  Haywood was the first to break the mold - jumping from college to the ABA Rockets after his sophomore year.  After his one year in Denver Haywood challenged the NBA’s college eligibility rule, and was allowed to play for the Seattle Supersonics, opening the door for college players to leave their ncaa teams early.

Today “one and done” college players, entering the NBA after one year of ncaa baskerball, are common place (ask the University of Kentucky!)  But Haywood’s one year was the best I have ever seen by a pro basketball player in Denver - even better than later more well known Denver stars like David Thompson and Alex English.  I remember watching a Rockets game with a friend where Haywood hit a 15 foot turnaround jumper over a defender from an impossible angle.  “Whoa!!” my friend and I said as we looked in each other in amazement.

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