Spencer Haywood (1970-75) and Gary Payton (1990-03), who starred for the Seattle SuperSonics two decades apart, are among 12 finalists for election to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. The 2013 class will be announced during the Final Four in April.
Haywood signed with the Sonics after playing a year with the American Basketball Association’s Denver Rockets. He made first-team All-NBA in 1972 and 1973 and second-team All-NBA in 1974 and 1975. Haywood’s 29.2 points per game scoring average in the 1972-73 season established a franchise record, as did his 13.4 rebounds per game in 1973-74.
To get Haywood, then-Sonics owner Sam Schulman filed suit against the NBA, challenging a league rule that a player could not be drafted unless he waited four years after his graduation from high school. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1971 by a vote of 7-2 in Haywood’s favor. The decision opened the NBA to players coming directly from high school.
Haywood played in four All-Star games while with Seattle and nearly won the MVP award in 1974 with a 23-point, 11-rebound effort. In 1974-75, he led the Sonics to their first playoff bertth. He averaged 24.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game.
The Sonics traded Haywood to the New York Knicks Oct. 24, 1975 for Gene Short and a 1979 first-round draft pick (James Bailey).
Payton came to the Sonics as the second overall pick in the 1990 draft and developed into a nine-time All-Star and a nine-time All-Defensive first-team choice. He was first-team All-NBA twice and was the 1995-96 Defensive Player of the Year.
The Sonics won 60 or more games three times during Payton’s career and reached the Finals in 1996 opposite Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
Payton scored a career-high 44 points against Minnesota March 4, 2001, had a career-high 18 assists against Houston Nov. 5, 2002, and twice had eight steals in a game, Dec. 18, 1993 against Golden State, and March 26, 1999, against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Sonics traded Payton to Milwaukee in 2003 in a deal that brought Ray Allen to Seattle. Payton also played for the L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, where he won a championship, after leaving Seattle. He retired after the 2006-07 season.
Other Hall of Fame finalists include former Houston Cougars coach Guy Lewis, current Louisville coach Rick Pitino and former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. The others are former NBA stars Maurice Cheeks and Bernard King, North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell, five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley and former Boston Celtics great Tom Heinsohn, already inducted as a player, and now a candidate in the coaching category.