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Spencer Haywood fought for retired player insurance, “heartbroken” by recent scam

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Last week, 18 former NBA players were arrested for allegedly taking part in an effort to defraud the insurance program for retired players, reportedly scamming $4 million from the system.

That health program is only a few years old, and it’s something NBA legend Spencer Hayward — the chairman of the National Basketball Retired Players Association – fought hard to see put in place. Hayward told the Boston Globe he was heartbroken by the news of the alleged fraud.

“What I was fighting for is we had no health insurance as retired players,” Haywood said. “Chris Paul and LeBron James and all those guys came up with a plan to come up with insurance for all of us. And what these guys [the alleged scammers] have done is taken advantage of that health insurance we worked so far for. And it’s blackened all of our eyes...

“The different players that had to have major stuff done, that they didn’t have [insurance],” Haywood said. “But here we got these guys who have decided from the fraudulent standpoint to say, ‘hey they’ve got this good stuff, let’s take some money.’ It’s just disgusting.”

This insurance has been literally lifesaving for many retired players. Haywood mentioned the heart transplant Nate Archibald got as an example, but there are many others.

It’s easy, and in this case accurate, to use the “few bad apples” cliche, but Haywood also understands the PR hit this means, the black eye. When people think of the insurance for retired players, too many will think of this now and not Archibald and the many others who benefited.

Fortunately, the health insurance program isn’t going anywhere.