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Sports Then and Now



Remembering Playground Legend Connie Hawkins 0

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. Read the rest of this entry →

35 Years Ago: Celtics and Suns Play the Greatest NBA Finals Game Ever 4

Posted on June 03, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Celtics center Dave Cowens and Suns center Alvan Adams were the central figures as the 1976 NBA Finals began.

When the Phoenix Suns met up with the Boston Celtics in the 1976 NBA Finals, most observers expected a short series.

The Celtics were the dominant franchise in the NBA with their dynasty in the late 1950s and 1960s with 11 championships in 13 years.

After a brief down period following the retirement of Bill Russell, the Celtics once again rose to the top of the league when they won the 1974 NBA title.

Former Celtics great Tom Heinsohn was the coach of this new generation of Celtics that featured center Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, and Jo Jo White, but included former sixth man and Celtic hero, John Havlicek.

In 1976, the Celtics won 54 games during the regular season and advance to the NBA Finals after a pair of six-game playoff series victories over the Buffalo Braves and Cleveland Cavaliers.

On the other end of the spectrum were the Phoenix Suns, an expansion team who had not done much in their first seven years of existence.

The 1976 season seemed to be another lost effort as the Suns lost 18 of 24 games during the middle of the season.

But lead by head coach John MacLeod, the Suns caught fire in the last part of the regular season, winning 10 of their last 13 games, to finish with a 42-40 record, but good enough for the team’s first playoff berth since 1970

With a core of players that included rookie of the year Alvin Adams and Paul Westphal who Phoenix acquired in a trade from Boston during the offseason, the Suns knocked off the Seattle Supersonics in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals, where they shocked the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in seven games, to advance to their first NBA Finals.

The veteran Celtics won the first two games easily in Boston Garden, but the “Sunderllas” as they become to known as for their remarkable run, won the next two games in Phoenix, to force a pivotal Game 5 in Boston Garden.

What appeared to be a rout in the beginning of the game, turned into the wildest game in NBA Finals history. Read the rest of this entry →

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