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Game Changer: The Life of Spencer Haywood

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Buried under the drama of May 2 was the announcement that a documentary about Spencer Haywood will be premiering at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 21 at the Uptown Theatre.

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Let's take inspiration from an individual who overcame his own disappointments and significant setbacks and became someone who put the SuperSonics on the map, pushed us towards our first World Championship, and changed the game of basketball.


Perseverance and Courage

What we've known to date about Haywood mostly starts from the time he captured the national attention when making the 1968 USA Olympic Basketball team. He was 19 at the time, the youngest player ever to make the team, and was its leading scorer averaging 16 points a game and shooting 72% from the field. The USA won the Gold Medal in Mexico City.

But his young life started out much differently. In the documentary we'll learn about his family and where he started his life in Silver City, Mississippi, where his large double-jointed hands were noticed for their labor potential, not for playing basketball. His life unfolding just at the cusp of the Civil Rights movement.


Basketball and Life

Haywood was gifted with talent during a period of time that didn't make it easy to get to the top when you deserved to be at the top. This film will show you Haywood did it — how his mother wanted her sons to have a better life outside of Mississippi and sent them to Detroit.

You'll learn how Haywood met some unexpected mentors in Detroit who not only helped him improve his game, one also helped him learn to read.


All this taking place during the middle of the Civil Rights movement.


Haywood v. National Basketball Association

"Son, I want you to remember that you're going to be forever ostracized for what you're doing here."

The words of Thurgood Marshall to Spencer Haywood. Haywood was 21 at the time when the words were spoken to him in 1971. Haywood was young enough to not take them seriously because he just wanted to play basketball at a pro level for the SuperSonics. The Supreme Court case was the way to make it happen.

And it did happen, he won his case, 7-2, and went on to an incredible career in the NBA.

Finally being recognized for what he did by being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2015.


Civil and Individual Rights

This documentary isn't just about basketball, it's about the life of someone who overcame deep racial divides, inequality, and prejudices. The difference is basketball gave him a chance to do this and change the game we love for the better.


For more information on how to get tickets to the Seattle International Film Festival, click here.

For a great write-up about this documentary, check out Art Thiel's article here.

And more about the local production company who made the documentary, click here.

For a quick interview by King 5 click here.

If you watched the documentary over the weekend at the SIFF, post about it in the comments!