The Atlanta Hawks will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Philips Arena with a larger-than-life-size statue of Hawks' legend Dominique Wilkins. Dubbed "The Human Highlight Film" as one of the NBA's best dunkers, Wilkins had a Hall of Fame career with Atlanta and has been an ambassador for the franchise and city for three decades. Here are some other tidbits you should know about this Hawks great:
Dominique Wilkins was a three-time All-SEC performer with the Georgia Bulldogs, during the same time of another Georgia legend - Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker - left his mark in Athens. Wilkins ended his career as the Bulldogs' all-time scoring leader with an average 21.6 points. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1981 Southeastern Conference tournament.
The Jazz selected Wilkins third overall in the 1982 NBA Draft. Hawks owner Ted Turner saw too much potential and sent $1 million, along with John Drew and Freeman Williams, to Utah in order to bring Wilkins to Atlanta.
After being traded by Atlanta after 12 seasons, Wilkins finished his basketball career with two stints in Europe and on four NBA rosters.
Reebok teamed up with high-flying Dominique Wilkins to promote their Pump technology sneakers. Wilkins wore the kicks on court during his days with the Hawks, including during his 1990 slam dunk contest win.
The campaign cleverly challenged Michael Jordan to "pump up" and "air out."
The 6-8 forward ended his NBA career with 26,668 points, is the 11th all-time leading scorer in league history and his 24.8 career scoring average is 13th on the all-time charts. Wilkins' 23,292 points with the Hawks are the franchise's best.
In January 2001, Wilkins became just the third player in Hawks history to have his uniform number (No. 21) retired, joining Hawks legends Bob Pettit and Lou Hudson.
His No. 21 jersey was retired in Athens in 1991 and remains the only retired jersey in UGA men's basketball history.Brant Sanderlin / AJC
Wilkins recently told the Boston Herald that his biterness toward Larry Bird and Boston Celtics dates back to his rookie year with Atlanta.
“One of the first times I ever played against him, I went out for the opening tip and I went to shake his hand. He just stood there and looked at me stone-faced with his hands behind his back,” Wilkins said recently. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Then we were getting ready for the tip and he says to me, ‘You don’t belong in this league, Homes.’ I couldn’t believe it, but it happened so fast, I didn’t know what to think.
“Then they had the ball and I was on him and he said, ‘I don’t know why they got you guarding me, Homes. You can’t guard me.’ Then, whap, he hit a 3. Then he came down again and said, ‘They made a mistake putting you on me, Homes,’ and he took another 3.
“Then a little while later, I came down on a break and he was backpedaling. I just went right after him. I jumped up and he tried to challenge, but I took that right through the rim. He fell and hit the basket support.
“He got up and said, ‘I like you, rookie. You’ve got (guts).’ I was happy for a second, and then he said, ‘But I’m still going for 40 on you tonight.’
“But I got him,” Wilkins finished his story. “He only scored 39.”
Wilkins was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. The following year he was part of the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame's inaugural class, which included included Braves legend Hank Aaron, Braves manager Bobby Cox, Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd, legendary golfer Bobby Jones, Falcon linebacker Tommy Nobis.
Wilkins' 23,292 total points over 12 seasons with the Hawks are a franchise best. (Hover over graphic to reveal details.)
Before a home crowd in Chicago, Michael Jordan won the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest in a duel with Wilkins.
On his final dunk, Wilkins was given an abnormally low score (45) for his breathtaking tomahawk slam. That paved the way for what is perhaps one of the most memorable dunks in contest history, Jordan's full-court trot to launch from the free-throw line. The dunk earned Jordan a perfect score of 50 and back-to-bacl slam dunk titles.
Charles Barkley (from left), Joe Dumars and Dominique Wilkins were enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2006. The three combined to play 45 seasons in the league, compiling 26 total All-Star selections and 21 appearances on All-NBA teams.
Wilkins was left off the original 1992 Team USA squad that won Olympic gold. He was, however, a member of America's 1994 World Championship team, dubbed "Dream Team II."
An All-Star from 1985 to 1994, only Bob Pettit had more Hawks All-Star selections than Wilkins.
After the end of the 1996 NBA season, Wilkins played for the Panathaniakos Athens of the Greek league (in Athens, Greece) and helped the team reach the European Championship for Men's Clubs that year.
At one point Wilkins was the highest-paid professional basketball player in Europe.
In his final season in the NBA, Wilkins played alongside his younger brother, Gerald (left), on the Orlando Magic.
Gerald Wilkins, once labeled "the [Michael] Jordan stopper," spent 13 years in the NBA with the Magic, Knicks, Cavs and Grizzlies (Vancouver, not Memphis). His son, Damien, is a guard/forward who has logged more than 500 NBA games with the Thunder, Timerbwolves, Hawks, Pistons and Sixers.
I used slam dunking as a tool for intimidation.
- Domnique Wilkins
Wilkins returned to the Hawks in an administrative capacity in 2001 and is in his ninth season as the Hawks' vice president of basketball.
You can also hear and watch Wilkins as an analyst on Hawks game broadcasts with Bob Rathbun.