Felton Spencer, who set Louisville single-season and career records in field goal percentage before playing 12 years in the NBA, has died. He was 55.
Spencer’s sister, Tammy Pollock, tweeted of his death on Sunday afternoon and the school confirmed information with the family. No cause of death was given.
Louisville tweeted that it was “heartbroken” by Spencer’s passing. Former Cardinals teammate and current coach Kenny Payne expressed love and prayers for Spencer’s family on social media.
Spencer was drafted with the No. 6 pick in the 1990 NBA Draft and averaged 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his NBA career. Aside from the Timberwolves, he also played for the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs.
We remember former Warriors center Felton Spencer, who passed away today at the age of 55. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Felton played three seasons with the Warriors (1996-99) during a 12-year NBA career. Our condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/MGu6t5MRMm
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) March 12, 2023
We’re heartbroken by the passing of UofL great Felton Spencer. Spencer was the Cardinals’ all-time leader in career field goal percentage, the 6th overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, & a beloved member of the Louisville community. Our thoughts & prayers are with his loved ones. pic.twitter.com/jalKAnWpK9
— Louisville Men's Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) March 12, 2023
The 7-foot Louisville native known as “Chief” scored 1,168 points from 1986-90, including 32 against Tulane on Feb. 27, 1990, that’s tied for eighth all time at the school. Spencer averaged 14.9 points per game as a senior with 188 baskets on 276 attempts (68.1%) to establish the Cardinals’ single-season field goal percentage mark.
His career percentage record of 62.8% (409 of 651 shots) still stands. Spencer also averaged a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game and was a first team All-Metro Conference selection with teammate LaBradford Smith.
He spent three seasons with Minnesota before he was shipped to the Jazz in 1993, where he was a key starter on a Utah team that made the Western Conference finals twice in three seasons. He averaged 7.9 ppg and 8.4 rpg in the 1994 playoffs, where Utah advanced to the Western Conference finals before bowing 4-1 to the eventual champion Houston Rockets.
Former Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa when Spencer played there from 1993-96, called the center a “standout rebounder and competitor.”
I am saddened by the passing of former Utah Jazz player Felton Spencer. I had the privilege to coach Felton from 1993-96, where he was standout rebounder, interior defender and competitor. His humility and spirit enhanced our squad. U of Louisville proud, R.I.P. in hoop heaven!
— Gordon Chiesa (@gchiesaohmy) March 12, 2023
Spencer is also had a unique place in NBA lore in that he was the player to start at center for the Magic’s opener in 1996-97, becoming the player to took over the starting center role after Shaquille O’Neal left Orlando to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Spencer later worked as an assistant coach at Spalding and Bellarmine universities in Louisville.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.