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Spencer Haywood was like a god to me when I was 10 years old.

Jeff Bear Mug CMYKA 6-foot, 8-inch, slammin’, jammin’, basketball playing god.

In the 1969-70 season Haywood averaged 30 points and nearly 20 rebounds a game for my favorite team, the Denver Rockets [who later became the Denver Nuggets] of the American Basketball Association.

The ABA was still a fledgling league at that time, but its wide open style of play, 3-point shot, and red, white and blue basketball appealed to fans; and ultimately, popular ABA stars like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, and David “Skywalker” Thompson helped to force a merger with the older, more established NBA.

But in those early days of the league, security was pretty relaxed around the players, and they would let us kids run on the court to get autographs when the players came out to shoot their pregame warm-up shots.

Waiting on the sideline, clutching my little notepad and pencil, I waited patiently with the other kids for the signal to head onto the court. When it came, I took a moment to get up my gumption, then I made a beeline for Haywood.

Star athletes are larger than life to most fans, and I’m sure Haywood would have seemed large even to the adult version of me, but from my 4-foot, 2-inch perspective, he might as well have been a giant.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 24 issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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