Spencer Haywood needs to be recognized in Basketball Hall of Fame

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Spencer Haywood did not get elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. Given some of the other names in the Hall, this is absurd.

All you need to know about the problems with the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame can be summed up by the fact that Russ Granik will be enshrined in 2013 and Spencer Haywood will not.

No offense to Granik, who gave 30 years to the NBA, including 22 as David Stern's second-in-command. Granik will be recognized for being Stern's pitbull in collective bargaining (hey, only one lockout in four deals!) and for convincing FIBA to let pros play in the Olympics. Those are worthy achievements, and deserving of recognition. Clearly, the Hall's "Contributor Direct Election Committee" found Granik worthy of induction just seven years after his retirement.

Spencer Haywood has been retired for 30 years, and that anonymous contributor committee didn't see fit to elect him. Neither did the full honors committee, also anonymous. The Hall election system is beyond bizarre: there are five "direct election" committees that can select one person or team per year to recognize. The ABA direct election committee, for example, picked Roger Brown, whose Hall absence has long been a joke. The International direct election committee picked Oscar Schmidt.

Other committees, including the North American committee that most NBA and NCAA players go through, nominate finalists for review by the honors committee. The honors committee has 24 members; finalists need 18 votes to be enshrined. Haywood didn't get enough. He's eligible again next year, and in four more years he'll be eligible for election by the veterans committee, which has a direct election component.

Why does Haywood deserve to be in? Because he's the reason underclassmen can enter the NBA draft. Before Haywood, NBA rules forced players to wait four years after high school graduation to enter the draft. After two years in college, Haywood went pro with the ABA's Denver Rockets in 1969. Then the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics (an expansion team) signed him to a contract in 1970. The problem: he'd only been out of high school for three years, and was thus not yet eligible for the NBA.

The NBA threatened to prevent Haywood from playing; Haywood and the Sonics responded by suing the league on anti-trust grounds. A successful early injunction allowed Haywood to play while the case played out -- this has always been a concern with potential anti-trust litigation by players against the league, but Haywood avoided it. Eventually, the case ended up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court ... where the justices found in favor of Haywood. And the age minimum died. (It's precisely this case that makes many believe a challenge to the bargained current age minimum or the NFL's draft rule would be successful.)

A small sampling of players who then entered the NBA draft as underclassmen as a result of Haywood's successful case: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and countless more current and future Hall of Famers.

In addition to all of that, Haywood was an excellent player before drugs derailed his career, with four All-Star appearances, an ABA MVP, and two first team All-NBA bids. His playing contributions alone don't warrant a bust in Springfield, but his contribution to the modern game is indisputably important. (In a serious stomach punch, Haywood says someone from the NBA told him last week that he had been elected to the Hall this year. So he went to Atlanta, where the class is being announced on Monday, and his agent told a reporter. And then word came out he actually had not been elected.)

Again, no offense to Granik. But it doesn't look good at all that an anonymous committee placed him in the Hall while keeping Haywood, someone who without question seriously changed the NBA, out. We need transparency in the Hall. We need the voters who make these decisions to be held accountable to the basketball-loving world, or at least to make their cases public. Until then, the mystique of anonymity gives shelter to the worst sentiments folks have about Springfield.

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