The former iconic Sonic has returned to his adopted hometown Seattle to attend the premiere screenings of the documentary “Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story.”
The Fitbit watch he wears tells Spencer Haywood that he needs to keep moving if he’s going reach his daily goal. But then, he already knew that.
“I’ve been moving my whole life,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not slowing down now.”
No he’s not. In fact, Haywood is moving faster than ever lately.
On this day, he barely has enough time finish his lunch – a plate of Chilean Sea Bass and sweet potato – during a media blitz to promote his latest venture.
The former iconic Sonic has returned to his adopted hometown Seattle to attend the premiere screenings of the documentary “Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story,” which makes its debut this weekend at the Seattle International Film Festival.
“I did it man, I finally did it,” he said referring to a conversation we had 14 years ago about a different film project documenting his life that ultimately failed. “I told you I would get this done. Now it’s finally happening.”
The 67-year-old Haywood knows a thing or two about waiting.
But impatience is the reason why the Silver City, Miss., native’s story is being told on the silver screen.
At the heart of the documentary is Haywood’s landmark legal battle with the NBA, which stated players could not enter the league until they were four years removed from high school.
The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Haywood on March 1, 1971 in a decision that allowed underclassmen to enter the NBA and paved the way for generations of young basketball stars.
“This was a man who had things thrown at him on court, would have to miss practice and games due to going to court and yet would go into games and still score 30 points and grab 15 rebounds, incredible numbers,” producer Dwayne Clark wrote in an email. “But beyond this he allowed young men, mostly African American to make millions more by early entry and escape poverty. He is a civil rights icon!”
The 90-minute film, which is narrated by rap legend Chuck D., chronicles Haywood’s rise from a poverty-stricken Mississippi cotton field to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The documentary portrays Haywood, who was married to fashion icon Iman, as an Olympic gold medalist, cancer survivor, recovering addict and civil rights pioneer.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from and what your capabilities are, Spencer is proof that you can achieve anything,” said British filmmaker Martin Spirit, who admittedly knows more about cricket than basketball. “To be able to tell his story has been fascinating.”
In five seasons with the Sonics, Haywood appeared in four All-Star Games and averaged at least 20 points each season. During the 1972-73 season, he set the team record by averaging 29.2 points.
The Sonics traded Haywood to the New York on Oct. 23, 1975, and his career spun out of control due in large part to a cocaine addiction.
“I didn’t want to deal with the drugs (in the documentary), but I did,” said Haywood, a recovering alcoholic who celebrated 30 years of sobriety this year. “I realized I have to tell that story. I have to be raw with it because not only does it help me, it helps me help others.”
Haywood also played with the New Orleans Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers before finishing his career in 1983 in Washington.
It took 32 years after his NBA career ended for Haywood to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
And it’s going to take a little longer – if ever – for the feud between Haywood and the NBA to subside.
“There’s this anger that they don’t even know that they have for me,” Haywood said. “They’re slow-walking me to the gallows. I shouldn’t say that because things may be changing.”
The NBA invited Haywood to the NBA draft on June 23 in Brooklyn, N.Y. where he’ll meet with league executives and discuss formally changing the name of its eligibility rule to the Spencer Haywood rule.
“I want that name,” he said. “That means everything. It would solidify history. Every time those young men walk on that draft stage, they’re walking with me.
“That’s why I wanted to do this film. It’s educational and the whole truth has finally come out.”