It was 32 years ago today that Spencer Haywood went from the hardcourt to the Supreme Court, one of the biggest steps in his controversial and crucial case against professional basketball.
Haywood's case has been percolating for a long time, with lower courts initially affirming his right to play. This was affirmed by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on January 26th, but on February 17th, NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy ruled that Haywood's contract with the Sonics was invalid. Thus, on February 22nd, Haywood and his legal team filed a petition with the Supreme Court so that he could continue his livelihood as a professional basketball player.
It's difficult in hindsight to appreciate how much nonsense Haywood had to go through. He was simultaneously fighting:
A) a lawsuit with the ABA's Denver Rockets, who claimed he was still under contract to them
B) a lawsuit with the NBA about whether he had the right to play before his 'four years removed from high school' bit was up
C) a petition to be able to play while (B) was being resolved
Oh, and he had to travel around the country appearing in different courthouses, as well as being physically ready to play professional basketball.
And he was all of 21 years old.
Eventually, the courts all wound up ruling in Haywood's favor, paving the way for Shawn Kemp, Moses Malone, etc. to play in the league. February 22, 1971, though, was a pivotal first step of that whole process.
(Also, it's Chunkstyle's birthday today, so join me in wishing the best artist I'll ever know a Happy Birthday. Still waiting on that Pulitzer, young man!)