The Legends Award goes to citizens who have demonstrated a personal commitment to and vision for helping others. Previous recipients have included fellow Wisconsin sports icons Hank Aaron, Willie Davis and Junior Bridgeman. More information on the Fellowship Open and its work in supporting youth-related nonprofit organizations can be found at http://www.fellowshipopen.com.
Embry, presently in his 9th year as a senior advisor to the Toronto Raptors, will be presented for the Legends Award by fellow Hall of Famer and Milwaukee Bucks legend Oscar Robertson, his longtime Cincinnati Royals teammate and roommate earlier in their careers. The two first met and competed against each other in 1957-58, when Embry was a senior pivotman at Miami University of Ohio and Robertson was beginning his college career as a sophomore at University of Cincinnati.
“Wayne’s legacy is best defined by his leadership and the example he sets for others,” wrote NBA commissioner David Stern in a letter to Fellowship Open board chairman John Daniels. “In addition to acknowledging his position as a role model whose career is an inspiration to younger generations, Wayne recognizes the importance of giving back to the game and to the community. He has taught players to use the values they have learned while competing to make a positive impact on society. The NBA has benefited greatly from Wayne Embry’s commitment to the game of basketball. I am honored to join with you to celebrate his career and to thank him for all he has given us. He is a true pioneer.”
Embry’s 11-year NBA playing career included five appearances at the NBA All-Star game while with the Cincinnati Royals, a world championship with the 1968 Boston Celtics, and veteran leadership of the expansion Milwaukee Bucks in the team’s first season in 1969.
Moving into the front office as assistant to the president a year later, he was instrumental in the Bucks’ immediate acquisition of both Robertson and Bob Boozer. They joined a lineup anchored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to create one of the most dominant teams in NBA history, winning a then-record 66 games en route to the franchise’s only championship in 1971. The Bucks also became the first expansion team in any sport to win a title as early as its third season.
Following his 15-year front office tenure in three different positions with the Bucks, and a year as a consultant with the Indiana Pacers, Embry became VP and general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1986. When he was promoted to the presidency of the team in 1994, he again broke ground as the first African-American president of any professional sports team. During his 15 years with the Cavaliers, he was twice honored as NBA Executive of the Year.
In addition to his 50+-year NBA career, Embry has been a founder and CEO of his own businesses, a member of numerous corporate and nonprofit boards of directors, and a community activist and mentor for youth in every city where he has lived and worked, shaping and developing opportunities for literally thousands of people.
He is also the author of an autobiography, “The Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA” (University of Akron Press, 2004), with Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Embry has been a trustee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 1974 and has served on various senior-level committees for the NBA and USA Basketball. In recognition of his career both on the court and in the front office, he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor to the sport in 1999.
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