Hall Honors Basketball Pioneer Embry
Food for Thought
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 21:09
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Sept. 6 that Miami alum Wayne Embry would receive the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman’s Cup in recognition of Embry’s constant support of the Hall of Fame over the years. The announcement came a day before the Hall of Fame enshrined its 2012 class.
Embry, a native of Springfield, Ohio and 1958 Miami University graduate, was a basketball star at Miami. He was a two-time All-American Honorable Mention and the team’s MVP in 1957 and 1958.
Embry was drafted in the third round (22nd overall selection) in the 1958 draft by the St. Louis Hawks but was promptly traded to the Cincinnati Royals. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, was a five-time All-Star and won a championship in 1968 with the Boston Celtics while backing up the great Bill Russell. Embry then signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969; he retired the same season.
In 1971, the Bucks hired Embry as their new general manager, making him the first African American GM in sports. In fact, Major League Baseball did not have its first African American GM until 1977 and it took the NFL 31 years after Embry’s hire to have its first interracial GM (Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens).
When the Bucks hired him they were only in their third season of existence. In Embry’s first season with the Bucks he wheeled and dealed his way into building a championship team. He traded for the pride of Crispus Attucks High School, the “Big O” Oscar Robertson. Robertson proved to be a perfect complement to the Bucks new young center, Lew Alcindor, better known as Kareem Abdul Jabar.
The 1971 Bucks went on to become NBA champions in the team’s fourth year in the league.
Think about it: the Indiana Pacers are entering their 37th year in the NBA (not including their time in the ABA) and they have never won anything, but Embry was able to orchestrate a championship with an expansion team in its fourth year. He remained with the Bucks until 1977.
The Cleveland Cavaliers hired Embry in 1985. During his time with the Cavs he won two Executive of the Year Awards (1992 and 1998), became the NBA’s first black team president and was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999. He was inducted as a contributor to the game, not as a player.
Not to be confused, Embry is already a Hall of Famer. This honor just acknowledges his illustrious career and what he has done for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Embry is one of the most respected and beloved men in the NBA. Jerry Colangelo, the director of USA Basketball who was also honored by the Hall of Fame this year said of Embry, “[He] established himself as a true pioneer in basketball — who, with quiet determination and great strength of character, made a lasting and historic impact on the game to which he dedicated his life.”
It is great to see a former Redskin honored, especially with such praise. As Mr. Colangelo said, Wayne Embry is a pioneer. He has opened the door for so many African Americans.
He does not get the attention that Jackie Robinson or Althea Gibson gets, but without a shred of doubt his impact on sports is just as great. For decades African Americans struggled just to play on the same field with their white counterparts.
Embry showed that not only could they play in the same arena but also that they can lead teams in the front office.