There are two things that stood out about Dominique Wilkins on and off the court. The first was his passion. He played the game all-out, all the time, soaring and slamming, blocking shots and running the floor, Dominique was full throttle.
The second is how astonishingly available he is to everybody off the court. As approachable as any Hall of Famer can be, Wilkins has a smile and a handshake to most everybody who approaches. When I covered the team in person in Atlanta, I was constantly amazed that this giant of the ATL would have basketball conversations with me. He never showed the lofty place he earned or lorded it over anyone in his interactions.
It's these two characteristics that director Kenan K. Holley brings to life in ESPN Films' "Dominique Belongs To Us". Holley shows the origins of these through the storytelling about Nique as he grew up in Baltimore and then Washington, N.C, where Wilkins led his small school to championships.
The desire to please everyone he was around, family, friends and the crowds that came out to support him and the reciprocal acceptance from those folks was the rocket fuel for Wilkins' growth as a teen and, later, a college and NBA star.
It was that desire that translated to the passion we saw on a night-in, night-out basis. Holley showed the struggles the entire Wilkins family faced and how Dominique was determined to make it better for all of them.
Holley focused on the tough decision of Wilkins to spurn the state of North Carolina basketball, where he was thought to be deciding between North Carolina or North Carolina State, to create his own legacy at the University of Georgia. The reaction from his fellow Washington, N.C citizens, the people who had revered him as he led the little town to heights they'd never seen, was shockingly negative. The film indirectly paints the picture of how some fans can see the athlete as little more than a tool for their own enjoyment, their property, and how when the moment comes for a player to choose for himself or his family, the masks come off and the folly of loyalty is exposed.
The film spends good time on Wilkins' run at UGA and the decision to turn pro, as well as his excitedness of the trade to the Hawks. Between the two Georgia workplaces, it cemented Atlanta as home, not just to Dominique, but his whole family as well. It was this acceptance and support that restored Nique's trust and set up a triumphant return to the town that he left over 30 years ago.
It's a more than worthwhile trip through Wilkins' past to see how he became the man we all saw, to understand a little more completely why he was The Human Highlight Film.
ESPN will air the documentary under their "SEC Stories" series and will be televised on ESPN on Friday, April 17th @ 8pm ET. It will be re-shown on Monday, April 27th at 9pm on the SEC Network.