April 3, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Terry Foster

Spencer Haywood should be rewarded for contributions to basketball

Spencer Haywood: 'I'm not going to let that thing (Hall of Fame) get me down.' (David Banks / Getty Images)

Spencer Haywood is a controversial figure. He admitted as much Thursday afternoon, just hours after he learned he had been omitted from consideration for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Haywood, who won a state championship at Detroit Pershing and played at the University of Detroit, was not only a great player, but he changed the game. He challenged rules that only allowed players to be drafted by the NBA four years after they graduated high school. Haywood, with the help of legendary coach Will Robinson, eventually won the right for players to be drafted early.

Every time a player like LeBron James, Josh Smith and Trey Burke draws a paycheck before his 22nd birthday, he should thank Haywood.

The NBA did not like it. Many basketball purists did not like it. But Haywood was a game-changer. After Haywood averaged 32.1 points and a nation-best 22.1 rebounds a game his sophomore season, he petitioned to enter the NBA draft and was denied. He instead played for the ABA's Denver Nuggets.

That's not all Haywood did. He averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds during 12 seasons in the NBA and one in the ABA. He won a gold medal with the 1968 Olympic team and was a rookie of the year and MVP his rookie season in the ABA.

Haywood made a difference we still feel today and he should be rewarded for that.

Haywood said it is tough to be patient but said he has no choice.

"Im not going to let that thing (Hall of Fame) get me down," he said. "We Detroiters, we people in Michigan, have been beaten down so much. This is a great time for us. I am going to look at it as a positive.

"You rely on a higher power to guide you through times like this because it makes no sense to me. It makes absolutely no sense."

Terry.Foster@detroitnews.com

More Terry Foster