Miami to erect statue in honor of basketball icon Wayne Embry (Miami '58)

Dedication planned for this spring

By Jude Killy, intercollegiate athletics 


Wayne Embry's 1,117 rebounds rank second all-time highest at Miami. His NBA career included five selections to the All-Star team and a 1968 NBA title with the Celtics (image from Miami Athletics).

Wayne Embry ’58 is a basketball icon. A standout at Miami University from 1955-1958, he broke down racial barriers as one of the university’s first African American student-athletes. His career began with the Civil Rights movement still in its infancy, and his example and legacy opened doors for generations of African American students and student-athletes, both at Miami and across the country.

In recognition of Embry’s contributions to his university, the state of Ohio and his transformative impact on the sport of basketball, a statue capturing his likeness and signature hook shot will become the first honoring an African American alumnus at Miami University. It will be located prominently at the main entrance of Millett Hall, home of Miami University Basketball. Plans are to dedicate this statue in Spring 2021.

“The impact that Wayne Embry has made in his lifetime goes so far beyond Miami University and the game of basketball at all levels. It is impossible to put into words the true scope of his influence and the ground he paved for so many,” said Miami University Director of Athletics David Sayler. “To be able to honor him with a statue that will be a permanent tribute means so much to our basketball program, athletic department and university. I want to sincerely thank Randy Ayers and Jayne Whitehead for spearheading the efforts with the donors to make this project a reality.”

In addition to the statue, Miami Athletics is also creating the Wayne Embry Scholarship in his honor. The scholarship will support Miami varsity men’s basketball student-athletes.

“This statue honors the legacy of Wayne Embry and his life and career of courageous leadership, generous service, and unparalleled commitment to team, collaboration, and his alma mater” said Miami University President Gregory Crawford. “Miami is a place for trailblazers and innovators. Wayne is a tremendous example of the grit and tenacity that is emblematic of RedHawks. In the years to come, countless students, faculty, staff, and visitors will be inspired by his story, leadership and successes."

In honor of Embry’s impressive career as a collegiate and professional basketball player, his pioneering example as a professional basketball executive and his significant leadership contributions to the university, Miami—with the backing of generous gifts from the Gordon and Llura Gund 1993 Foundation , Cleveland Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors—is constructing this visible, meaningful and important tribute in Embry’s honor.

“This conditional pledge is made because of the great respect and admiration my wife and I have had for Wayne Embry over many years both as a business colleague and friend,” said Gordon Gund who facilitated a matching grant from the Gordon and Llura Gund 1993 Foundation.

“Wayne Embry has provided a special, groundbreaking legacy for so many people in the NBA, myself included. He helped create opportunities for many to follow with his own dedication and beliefs. His life has been an inspiration and it speaks to the core values that define leadership and success. Recognizing Wayne for his achievements now translates into support and impact for others in the future. This is a very appropriate way to honor him and the Cleveland Cavaliers are proud to join Gordon Gund, and others, in being part of this well-deserved recognition for our friend, colleague, and Cavaliers Wall of Honor member, Wayne,” said Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman.

Embry said he is humbled by the recognition of his alma mater and honored to be the first African American enshrined in a statue on the Miami campus.

“On my recruiting visit in 1954,  I distinctly remember walking through the halls of Withrow Court and seeing the photos of some of Miami’s most famous and respected coaches; Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Walter Alston, Weeb Ewbank to name a few,” Embry said. “The experience was profound, providing inspiration and confidence for me throughout my collegiate career and a moment I also reflected back upon when I first became general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks. I took great pride in representing Miami of Ohio on the basketball floor and cherished all of the invaluable lessons learned and relationships developed but just as importantly, I highly valued the education I received and the foundation it provided for my opportunities both in the NBA and in business. The pride I have as a Miami of Ohio alumnus is deep and I am genuinely grateful and touched to have the enduring honor.”

Embry’s Miami Legacy


Miami Athletics is also creating the Wayne Embry Scholarship to support Miami varsity men’s basketball student-athletes.

Embry scored 1,401 points during his Miami career, still ranking among the university’s top 12 all-time career scorers more than 40 years later. Even more impressive, his 1,117 rebounds still rank second all-time at Miami. Inducted into Miami University’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1970, Embry is one of only six Miami men’s basketball players to have his number retired.

He went on to serve his alma mater’s Board of Trustees for 14 years, including one year as chairman of the board. His service further included the College of Education, Health and Society’s advisory board, with his late wife, Terri; as well as the steering committees for Miami’s Campaign for Love and Honor and Graduating Champions Campaign.

Embry received the university’s Distinguished Achievement Medal in 2001 and its Intercollegiate Athletics Inclusive Excellence Award in 2019.

Wayne’s NBA Legacy

Embry’s more than 50-year NBA career began as a player for the Cincinnati Royals in 1958. He was the team’s standout center until joining the Boston Celtics in 1966. He concluded his playing career in 1969 as the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-ever team captain.

His NBA playing career included five selections to the All-Star team and a 1968 NBA title with the Celtics. Known as “The Wall” for his 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame and ability to set solid picks, Embry appeared in 831 regular-season NBA games, averaging 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Following his final season playing with the Bucks, Embry became the team’s general manager and the NBA’s first African American general manager in 1972. During his eight seasons as general manager, the Bucks made four playoff appearances.

In 1985, Embry became vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, establishing one of the NBA’s winningest franchises throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Under his leadership, the team achieved four post-season appearances. He ascended to the role of Cavaliers’ executive vice president in 1992 and, in 1994, became team president and chief operating officer – the first African American to hold these roles in NBA history.

In 2004, Embry became senior basketball advisor to the president of the Toronto Raptors, a position in which he continues to serve. He acted as interim general manager in 2006 and played a critical role in the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship.

“Wayne is a multi-time NBA champion on the court and in the boardroom,” said  Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman of the NBA Board of Governors and Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “He has touched so many lives with his wisdom and kindness both in Toronto and in NBA community at large. We’ve been fortunate to have his presence in our organization for almost 20 years and thrilled that his legacy will continue with this honor.”

Honored as Sporting News Executive of the Year in 1992 and Sports Illustrated Executive of the Year in 1998, Embry received induction into the Cavaliers’ Wall of Honor in 2019. He also co-authored his autobiography, “The Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA” with Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

A Basketball Pillar and Community Leader


Artist rendering of the statue to be erected at the entrance of Millett Hall (by sculptor Tom Tsuchiya).

An inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1999), the Ohio College Basketball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class (2006) and the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame (2013), Embry was the 2013 recipient of the Ohio Heritage Award for his off-the-court contributions to the state.

His accolades include numerous leadership awards, including the Sports Business Journal’s Champions Award, the Global Sports Management Summit’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Giant Steps Award from the National Consortium for Academics and Sport. Embry also has served as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s board of directors and numerous corporate boards of directors.

He has given back to his profession and community in many ways, including serving as a trustee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 1974, participating on a number of senior-level NBA and USA Basketball committees, and contributing as a board member and leader to numerous non-profits, including his service to Miami University.

Representation like the Embry statue matters, said Anthony James, interim vice president for diversity and inclusion.

“Naming structures after marginalized individuals or groups helps to nudge the culture more to be more reflective of the broader society and communicate efforts to be more reflective and communicate value for individuals representing those marginalized groups and importantly, their many contributions to the community,” he said. “Engaging in this effort, sincerely and compassionately, goes a long way of communicating to long marginalized groups that we see you and we appreciate the contributions you make to the institution, and you matter.”

Support the Wayne Embry Legacy Project

Contributions to the Wayne Embry Legacy Project are welcome and may be made online at 

or sent to:

Wayne Embry Legacy Project, Miami University

725 East Chestnut Street, Oxford, OH 45056.

Or contact Jayne Whitehead, Assistant Vice President for Gift Planning, at 513-529-5223 or