The hoops scene in Mississippi has been shrouded in darkness for far too long. While the area may not have the largest names in basketball, the players have certainly made a name for themselves. Amidst controversy, groundbreaking decisions, and jaw-dropping talent this state stands out from the rest.
While falling short of the 100-player mark, Mississippi has been able to produce two Hall of Famers: Spencer Haywood and Chet Walker. The more well-known player of the two is Spencer Haywood. The eventual 1970 Rookie of the Year was not only a winner on the court but in the courtroom. Haywood would have to win a groundbreaking case against the NBA; all before lacing up his shoes for the Seattle Supersonics. This case would overturn the eligibility rule stating that a player must be four years removed from their high school graduation date before going to the NBA. Haywood would take the league by storm racking up points, rebounds, and many other accolades including a championship over his 13-year career.
The struggles for players from this state do not end with Haywood. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stood out as one of the most talented shooters that the NCAA and NBA have ever seen. After an insane collegiate career filled with 50-point games and accolades galore at LSU, Abdul- Rauf was drafted 3rd overall to the Denver Nuggets. He soon made his name as one of the NBA’s best shooters off the dribble and at the free throw line during the 90’s. But his career was not without controversy once he began his protests during the national anthem.
The results led to a slow exile from the league cutting into the prime of Mahmoud’s career. There have been many interviews throughout the years with Mahmoud standing by his decision and showing dedication to his cause. His actions today would align him with Colin Kaepernick; he’s even been documented showing support for Kaepernick’s movement.
Not all of The Magnolia State’s players went through political or legal strife. Monta Ellis the state’s most famous basketball player since the turn of the century, developed his game in some of the most unique surroundings in Jackson, Mississippi. Blessed with blinding speed and a bulldog mentality, Ellis quickly separated himself from his peers and his hometown. While electrifying high school courts across the state, Ellis’ stardom rose to allow him to be one of the last prep to pro athletes.
Through all the trials and tribulations athletes from this state have had to endure they still find a way to stay on top. Whether winning lawsuits, being the Big 3 league’s Steph Curry impersonator, or working their way back into the NBA one thing is obvious, obstacles only make them stronger. Hoopers from Mississippi don’t receive the same exposure as most states yet they still produce several major division one athletes every year. Mississippi might just be the nation’s diamond in the rough for talent.