"You made me...promises, promises!"
Sorry about the week off, peeps. I went to my usual brunch spot to write this part last Sunday when friends came in, beers and Bloody Marys happened, and next thing I knew I was passed out post-Super Bowl. I feel justified in my truancy. Anyways, this group was where I learned a lot about some 70s guys that I wish I didn't know. The good news is that crime DOES pay because it gets you into the Top 20 Atlanta Hawks of All Time! This week's theme: "Cocaine is a hell of a drug". Read on and bask in the greatness, Hawks fans!
20. Walt Bellamy (1969-74; 5418.4)
A Hall of Famer, Bellamy was an awesome player and a legend. This is a guy who averaged 31.6 points per game in his ROOKIE year. He played his twilight years in Atlanta, averaging 15.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. Went to the playoffs four times as a Hawk and was great, averaging point totals of 16, 20, 18 and 13 for the Atlanta Hawks in the post-season. Bellamy died in 2013 and was oft-forgotten in the lore of Hawks fandom. Fun fact: Even though he had one of the top three rookie seasons of all time and is in the Hall of Fame, Bellamy never made an All-NBA team.
19. Pete Maravich (1970-74; 5697)
Another Hall of Famer and Pennsylvania product, "Pistol" Pete was flat-out insane as an NBA player. The Hawks selected him as the third player in the NBA draft in 1970. Apparently his flamboyant style did not mesh well with Lou Hudson and Walt Bellamy...his $1.9 million contract also did not help endear him to the vets on the team. This guy was such a "bad fit" that Lou Hudson had career highs with him at the point. The Hudson/Maravich combo was so good that they were the only teammates to ever BOTH score 2,000 points. Unfortunately, Pete was too good for Atlanta, and at his height (27.7 ppg), they traded him to New Orleans for two players and 4 draft picks. His time in Atlanta: 25 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Wow. Fun fact: Pete is still the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,667 points at LSU.
The 70s: Quaaludes, Disco, Electric socks.
18. Stacey Augmon (1991-97; 5842.24)
Plastic Man! As Dick Versace so coined him, this guy actually played FIFTEEEN years in the NBA. Drafted 9th overall by the Hawks, Augmon was an awesome contributor to the 1990s teams that had so much success. Came in and scored 14+ per game for most of his tenure, and played lock-down defense on the other end. FIVE playoff seasons beside Mookie, Nique and Steve will boost you up the list. And it did. My personal favorite Augmon memory: When they moved the three point line closer, Stacey took that as an invitation and jacked up 26 threes that year...he made seven.
17. Marvin Williams (2005-12; 6263.85)
Seven years with the Hawks, five of them playoff years, Marvin will always be remembered as "NOT CHRIS PAUL". Marvin trudged through terrible coaching and even worse sub patterns to become one of the most frustrating Hawks of all time. Never living up to his lofty draft position, Marvin averaged 11.5 points per game in a Hawks uni and showed flashes of a great player but could never put it all together. He was eventually traded to the Utah Jazz for a one-year rental on Devin Harris. He is still contributing in Utah, chipping in with a very Marvin-like 10.3 points per game.
16. Joe Caldwell (1965-70; 6381.5)
Nicknamed "Pogo Joe" for very obvious reasons, Joe Caldwell was a high-flying circus act of a player. Even though he was a leaper, he was also a tenacious defender, drawing very high praise from Dr. J as the toughest defender he played against. Caldwell was a Hawk for 5 years (3 STL, 2 ATL) and was hitting his prime in the 1969-70 season, averaging 21 points and 5 rebounds per game. In the playoffs that year, he raised his game to a whopping 25 points per game over 9 games. In true Hawk fashion, he bolted as a free agent to the Carolina Cougars of the ABA. I never heard of this guy before writing this list, but he was a great player and helped lead the Hawks to five straight playoff appearances. Interesting fact: He finished his career ironically in St. Louis for their ABA team. The team suspended him mid-season for suspecting he influenced a teammate to quit. He has since filed various lawsuits claiming he was wrongly blacklisted by the ABA and NBA. Ouch.
15. John Drew (1974-82; 6464.88)
After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, John Drew was on top of the world. A two-time All-Star, Drew managed to average a very nice 21 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and led the Hawks to 4 playoff appearances in those years. The Hawks thanked him by trading him to Utah in 1982 for an unknown player from Georgia named Dominique or something like that. In the 1982 season, Drew hit the ground running, still scoring at a high level…then the coke took over. Suspended in 1983 under the NBA’s new drug policy, Drew was outed as having a massive addiction to cocaine. He went to rehab and came back the following season with the Jazz and won the Comeback Player of The Year. Proving that life typically doesn’t like a happy ending, John slipped back into his drug habits and was the first player ever banned for life from the NBA. Many relapses and arrests later, Drew settled in Houston where he is now a cab driver. Fun fact: John Drew shares an NBA record with Jason Kidd: Most turnovers in a game (14).
Throw your hands in the air...and snort coke like you just don't care!
14. Eddie Johnson (1977-86; 6938.6)
Drafted 49th overall in the 1977 draft, Eddie Johnson was a relatively unknown prospect entering the NBA. He got better with each season and peaked in a Hawks uniform averaging 16 points and 8 assists per game in the 84-85 season. During that year, he shared the backcourt with Doc Rivers, Rory Sparrow, Spud Webb and Johnny Davis. That’s an insane amount of guard talent. As the Hawks are prone to do, they traded the fan favorite to the Cavs in the 85-86 season. Stop me if you heard this, but he secretly had a big cocaine addiction and was suspended multiple times. He checked into rehab, but then failed to follow through on mandatory counseling, so the NBA banned him for life (two in a row, baby!). His life after the NBA was filled with 100+ arrests and some crimes so bad, I will not list them here. You’re on your own to look that up. On a more positive note, Eddie’s Hawk legacy: 9 seasons, 15.3 points, 5.2 assists, 2 All-Star games, 5 playoff appearances. Great career, great Hawk, terrible citizen.
13. Steve Smith (1994-99; 7706.6)
One of the nicest, yet most fun players in Hawk history. Smith was brought to Atlanta 2 games into the 94-95 season with Grant Long for an aging and complaining Kevin Willis. Smith arrived and played his best years in Atlanta, averaging 18/4/4 over five seasons. Smith led the Hawks to the playoffs in all five seasons, upping his scoring to a solid 20 points per game. Being a fantastic player and all-around great guy will only get you so far in the ATL, as one of the best trades in Hawk history was then followed by one of the all-time worst in NBA history: After the 1998-99 season, All-Star Smith was traded to Portland for Jim Jackson and JR Rider. Karma hit hard as Smith moved on to win a Championship with the Spurs and the Hawks endured a decade of losing seasons. After retiring, Smith showed up on Atlanta Hawks TV broadcasts as a color guy next to Bob Rathbun. You can now see him on NBA TV.
(Note: While researching the Smith/Rider trade, I found out that JR Rider has a championship ring from the Lakers. There is no justice in the world.)
12. Kevin Willis (1984-94; 7926.48)
Kevin Willis was drafted in 1984 by the Hawks and played 9 seasons in Atlanta…and that was less than half of his career. Always remembered in the #42 jersey, he played until he was 45 years old. Willis was a seven-foot power forward who couldn’t make it as a center because of his small feet. That mattered very little because the guy was a monster force in the paint over the span of his career. For the Hawks, Willis averaged 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. His rebounding became legendary in the 91-92 season as he averaged an astonishing 15.5 per game, propelling him to an All-Star appearance. Two games into the 94-95 season, Willis was traded to Miami for Steve Smith and Grant Long. He then bounced around the league until he eventually became the oldest player with his eigth team, the Dallas Mavericks. Willis is another Hawks star that rightly got a ring by hitching his wagon to the San Antonio bench in 02-03. Hawk totals: 10,582 points, 7,332 rebounds, 1 All-Star Game, 6 playoff appearances. Fun fact: The NBA used to hold a "Strongest Man" competition, which typically came down to two guys: Willis and Charles Oakley.
Manute! Actually, this box-out killed him.
11. Doc Rivers (1983-91; 8334.38)
Now mostly known for his accomplished coaching career, Doc Rivers was a staple of the "glory years" for the Nique-era Atlanta Hawks. Doc was drafted in the second round by the Hawks and immediately came in and ran the point with excellence. Rivers’ scoring numbers don’t immediately jump off the page at you, but he could pass with the best of them. When you have Dominique Wilkins on your team, scoring takes a backseat. Doc managed to get himself voted into an All-Star game in the magical 1987-88 season averaging 14 points and 9 assists per game. He helped guide Atlanta to five playoff appearances in his eight seasons. Reaching a transitional period in Atlanta, the Hawks traded Rivers to the Clippers for a first round pick (Augmon) and two second round picks (Rich Manning, Gaylon Nickerson) during the summer of 1991. After leaving LA, he latched on to the Knicks and Spurs before retiring in 1996. As everyone knows, Doc coached the 2008 Champion Celtics and is now the coach of the LA Clippers.
Tune in next week when we conclude the list and show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who the top Atlanta Hawks are! Feel the excitement!