Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
In case you didn't know, the guy everybody associates with the Atlanta Hawks is just the kind of awesome you would think he would be.
This wasn't a planned homage to the entirety of incredible that Dominique Wilkins is or what he means to the fanbase of the Atlanta Hawks Nation, but when you start to think about and read about the former Dawg, you can't help it.
First, there is his playing career, which was well known to be spectacular. Hit that link and you'll see that Nique not only was a prolific scorer, but he carried a 20+ PER from his Age 25 season through his Age 34 season. He played with passion and aggressiveness that stood opposed to the ball-hogging, no defense playing meme that was always floated out there in critique of Wilkins.
The impact Wilkins had on the basketball community of Atlanta was registered in the dark divorce of the team and Wilkins when he was traded to the Clippers for Danny Manning. It didn't matter that then-GM Pete Babcock felt his star was declining or that Wilkins might've left via free agency anyway, the suddenness of the deal and the departure of the one true superstar in Atlanta at the time combined with the Hawks having the best record in the East at the time leveled a crushing blow that terminated the fanbase's passion for the team for years to come.
Fortunately, after Wilkins finally gave into the passage of time and retired, he re-joined the Hawks in any capacity he wanted and the healing began. His number was retired, folks got to see the franchise's signature player back in the mix and something seemed right about Dominique being back in Atlanta. It was then that I got to talk to and get to know the player I most passionately followed and began to see that he was as jovial and friendly off the court as he appeared to be on the court.
Wilkins is the type of guy you'd want to watch a game with, wherever that might be. He is candid, approachable and ready with an answer to just about any question. This personality has come across with his color commentary with Bob Rathbun on Fox Sports. If you are looking for someone that could migrate up to national telecasts, you are missing the boat. If your goal is to watch a Hawks game with a dude who understands the franchise and loves the game, Nique gives you just the kind of comfort you are looking for.
He took another step up in lore a few years ago when accosted by a person who claimed Wilkins owed him money -- the result was something that wasn't so good for the gentleman and provided us with a look at what Dominique Wilkins might be had he been cast as Shaft. It was a side of Nique few of us had seen in person -- and we liked it.
This past week, there was another side revealed to us as the New York Times offered a forum for anybody to submit a photograph and talk about someone close to them who had passed during the year.
Wilkins, without any fanfare or attention called to his submission, chose to honor the memory of Danny Roundfield, a Hawks all-timer who passed away after drowning in Aruba in August.
The brief note accompanying the photo was written by Dominique Wilkins, who played with Roundfield on the Hawks for two seasons. This wasn't commissioned by the Times-it was just Wilkins reaching out when he saw an opportunity to publicly honor his friend and teammate.
Awesome. It's just the kind of thing you would hope a friend of yours would do if you passed -- or the kind of thing I'd like to think I would do for someone close to me.
This image captures one of the great NBA players of the last 35 years, Dan Roundfield. When one looks at this image, they instinctively think of Dan the Atlanta Hawks player, the tenacious defender and the NBA All-Star. He was certainly all of those things, but for those of us who knew him, we look at this image and think of Dan the selfless leader, the husband, the father and the fearless teammate and friend. Dan lost his life this year at the age of 59 saving his wife of 37 years from drowning on the beaches of Aruba while on a family vacation. In his last moments, as he himself was fighting for his life, Dan fearlessly lived and died for his family, which is all he ever really wanted. So yes, Dan Roundfield was a tremendous athlete who elevated basketball in the city of Atlanta, but what is even more tremendous is the imprint he made on all of us, his teammates, and on the lives of his wife, his two sons and his grandchildren.
What an amazing ambassador for the team, for his teammates and this franchise. I am proud to have Wilkins be the spokesperson and signature player for the Atlanta Hawks. I am thankful for his time as a Hawk on the court and off the court as well.
Dominique Wilkins is awesome.