Friday, November 23, 2018

Spotlight On: Harthorne Wingo

Topps basketball cards


In my 1970s basketball card collecting days, one player stood out because I thought he had the coolest name – Harthorne Wingo of the New York Knicks. Before making it with the Knicks, Harthorne played in the Harlem Rucker league then the Allentown Jets, a minor league team in the Eastern Professional Basketball League, which later to become the CBA.  The Jets had an arrangement with the Knicks where they sent players to Allentown for playing time and won 2 championships during Wingo’s time there (1970 and 1973).  At a pickup game in Greenwich Village, Wingo was discovered by a show-team called the Harlem Wizards, and toured locally with them until he got his break with the Knicks.

He joined the Knicks as was a valuable role player during his 4 years there, a time when the Knicks won their last championship in 1973.  He built a reputation as a great rebounder and defender at the power forward position.  However, when the Knicks acquired Haywood Spencer, he knew his days with the Knicks were numbered.

After the NBA, he played four years in Italy, then a year each in Switzerland and Argentina.  Though he had success overseas, a period of drug abuse and alcoholism followed his career and he was at loose ends.  "When I got out, I had nowhere to go," Wingo said. "They helped me when I was in there, but after I left, it was like nobody cared."  Teammate Dean Meminger refuted Wingo's charge. "We reached out for Wingy, and we sent him to rehab," he said. "But from there, it was his obligation to reach out and help himself, and to stay in touch with people like me, people who consider themselves his friends." “Wingy,” as he was called, never felt on the same level as his Knick teammates, all who were better players with college educations to fall back on.  Which is why he didn’t call on them when he needed help. 

Still a big Knicks fan, he occasionally sees ex-teammates and keeps a low profile, staying away from his old haunts that were bad influences on him. RetroCards has designed new custom cards to add to Hawthorne Wingo’s lone card of 1975. All are from forthcoming sets except a 1976 card available in a Knicks team set. Check it out here!

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