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Sports Then and Now

Remembering Playground Legend Connie Hawkins

Posted on October 07, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Connie Hawkins was a four-time All-Star with the Phoenix Suns.

Connie Hawkins was a four-time All-Star with the Phoenix Suns.

In the days before 24-hour sports networks and social media, basketball legends were created in places like the playgrounds of New York City. One of the original playground superstars was Brooklyn native Connie Hawkins, who has passed away at the age of 75.

Before he had ever played a college or professional game, Hawkins had already created a reputation as a player you had to see to believe. His thundering dunks and quick step was a forerunner to Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and LeBron James.

Though his professional career started late because he had the misfortune of being associated with a college point-shaving scandal during his freshman year at Iowa, for which he was not implicated, once he reached a greater audience he was as good as advertised.

Shunned by the NBA, Hawkins spent four years showing his dynamic skills as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Hawkins finally began his professional career with the Pittsburgh Pipers of the ABA as a 25 year old during the 1967-68 season. He was an immediate All-Star and league MVP averaging a league best 26.8 points while grabbing 13.5 rebounds per game. During the playoffs, Hawkins averaged 29.9 points to lead them to the ABA Championship.

The team moved to Minnesota the next season and Hawkins was limited to only 47 games, but he averaged a career-best 30.2 points per contest.

He finally reached the NBA at the age of 27 for the 1969-70 season as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Hawkins averaged 24.6 points and 10.4 rebounds while earning the first of four straight NBA All-Star spots.

After spending four full seasons in Phoenix, Hawkins was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1973-74 season.

Though he had only been a pro for six years, the 31-year old Hawkins was no longer the dominating slasher of his earlier days and he averaged only 11 points during two years with the Lakers. The player known as Hawk finished his career with the Atlanta Hawks during the 1975-76 season.

Despite a relatively short professional career, Hawkins became the first Phoenix Suns player to earn induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Check out some of the great highlights from Hawkins career in these YouTube videos.

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