St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks Franchise History: 1966-67 through 1975-76

Championships: 0
Conference Titles: 0
Division Titles: 2

Regular Season Record: 404-415
Regular Season Win Percentage: 49.3%
Playoff Appearances: 7
Playoff Series Wins: 3
Playoff Record: 21-31

The Hawks bid farewell to St. Louis with one of their strongest seasons in years in 1967-68 by setting franchise records of 56 wins and a .683 win percentage. Unfortunately, in the playoffs, the Hawks were upset 4-games-to-2 by the San Francisco Warriors and exited their St. Louis era on a sour note. Under coach (and sometimes player) Richie Guerin, the Hawks kept chugging in Atlanta for the next two seasons with back-to-back 48-win seasons and appearances in the Western Division Finals.

The roster was in flux, however, throughout this period. Upon moving to Atlanta, the Hawks traded longtime point guard Lenny Wilkens to Seattle. Big and skilled center Zelmo “Big Z” Beaty left for the ABA. As did forward “Pogo” Joe Caldwell. The Hawks managed to keep a hold of “Sweet” Lou Hudson and added “Pistol” Pete Maravich in 1970. Still hanging on as well was a defensive mad man and tough as nails rebounder, Bill Bridges. In early 1970, making, up for the loss of Big Z, the Hawks traded for Walt “Bells” Bellamy.

The roster may have been in chaos, but at least all the players had splendid nicknames.

Added together, though, the moves were never truly enough to keep Atlanta a stalwart and they slid from the realm of contender. After 1970, the Hawks posted just one winning season (46 wins in 1973) in this period, although they made the playoffs seven times. The string of playoff appearances was more a testament to the imbalanced conferences than Atlanta’s own power. Their next winning campaign wouldn’t be until the 1977-78 season.

The Hawks waning fortunes at the end of this period leads to one of the great what-ifs in basketball history… What if Julius “Dr. J” Erving had played for the Hawks instead of the Virginia Squires of the ABA? Atlanta signed Erving to a contract in 1972, but ultimately the contract was ruled invalid. Erving’s brief stint in some exhibition games for Atlanta leave the tantalizing prospect of Pistol Pete, Sweet Lou, and the Doctor as true teammates only a fantasy for basketball and Hawks fans.

Ultimately, this period was one of transition and missed connections and chances. Through it all, Lou Hudson was the linchpin in this swirl of changes. He played every season of this era with the Hawks and cemented his status as a franchise legend.

STARTING FIVE

C – Walt Bellamy (1970-’74) – 338 Games
15.6 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 50.8% FG, 58.4% FT

F – Bill Bridges (1966-’72) – 419 Games
14.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 45.8% FG, 69.8% FT

F – Joe Caldwell (1966-’70) – 323 Games
16.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 47.7% FG, 62.5% FT

G/F – Lou Hudson (1966-’76) – 672 Games
22.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 48.9% FG, 79.3% FT

G – Pete Maravich (1970-’74) – 322 Games
24.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 44.8% FG, 80.9% FT

BENCH

G – Herm Gilliam (1971-’75) – 280 Games
12.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 45.0% FG, 82.1% FT

G – Mahdi Abdul-Rahman (1968-’71) – 244 Games
14.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 44.4% FG, 76.0% FT

C – Zelmo Beaty (1966-’69) – 202 Games
20.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 47.8% FG, 76.3% FT

Atlanta Hawks Franchise History: 1976-77 through 1985-86

Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks (sportslogos.net)

Championships: 0
Conference Titles: 0
Division Titles: 1

Regular Season Record: 408-412
Regular Season Win Percentage: 49.8%
Playoff Appearances: 7
Playoff Series Wins: 2
Playoff Record: 13-22

For their first full decade in Atlanta, the Hawks were apparently the definition of middling. Over the course of these ten seasons they finished virtually at .500… well, .498 to be precise. Four of these seasons saw Atlanta finish with a wins total between 40 and 43 wins, while three were in the 46-50 range and another three between the 31-34 range.

Despite the middle-of-the-road records, the Hawks did sport some exciting talent. Forward John Drew was a force on the offensive glass and one of the NBA’s best scorers. Tree Rollins was a mammoth shot-blocker, while Dan Roundfield slid beside him as an agile defender. Speedy Eddie Johnson created havoc in the backcourt. And in 1982, the Hawks traded Drew to Utah for the draft rights to an even more exciting scoring machine: Dominique Wilkins.

Dominique helped catapult Atlanta to a 50-win season for the 1985-86 campaign. It was Atlanta’s best record since the 1977-78 season when they also finished with 50 wins. Those seasons were equal in regular season wins, but it was the 1978-1979 squad that was Atlanta’s shining beacon. With 46 wins in the regular season, the ’79 Hawks swept the Houston Rockets in the first round and then slogged a 7-game series with the Washington Bullets. Storming back from a 3-1 deficit, the Hawks barely succumbed in the final game, 100 to 94.

It would be another eight years before Atlanta rose to those heights again and it’d be on the back of their high-flying dunker, Dominique Wilkins. To cap off the decade, Wilkins in 1986 became the first Hawks player since Bob Pettit to lead the NBA in scoring.

STARTING FIVE

C – Tree Rollins (1977-’86) – 663 Games
7.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 52.9% FG, 68.7% FT

F – Dan Roundfield (1978-’84) – 435 Games
17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 49.0% FG, 73.8% FT

F – John Drew (1976-’82) – 440 Games
21.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 47.3% FG, 74.8% FT

F – Dominique Wilkins (1982-’86) – 322 Games
24.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 47.0% FG, 78.2% FT

G – Eddie Johnson (1977-’86) – 619 Games
15.6 PPG, 5.2 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 47.8% FG, 79.3% FT

BENCH

F/C – Steve Hawes (1976-’83) – 451 Games
10.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 48.1% FG, 79.9% FT

C – Tom McMillen (1977-’83) – 416 Games
8.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 48.8% FG, 80.7% FT

G – Doc Rivers (1983-’86) – 203 Games
11.5 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.9 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 47.1% FG, 72.8% FT

Atlanta Hawks Franchise History: 1986-87 through 1995-96

Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks (sportslogos.net)

Championships: 0
Conference Titles: 0
Division Titles: 2

Regular Season Record: 469-351
Regular Season Win Percentage: 57.2%
Playoff Appearances: 8
Playoff Series Wins: 4
Playoff Record: 23-35

The most successful decade for the Atlanta Hawks thanks to the dynamics of Dominique Wilkins who was a perennial All-Star for most this period. The 1986-87 season saw the Hawks set a franchise record for wins with 57 and the next season witnessed their classic 7-game showdown with the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, the Hawks’ status as title contenders never quite solidified.

Moses Malone and Reggie Theus were brought in as aging stars to buoy the Hawks. Jon Koncak was given a bloated contract. Kevin Willis exploded for a 15 RPG season. Stacey Augmon’s “Plastic Man” dunks were a nice mix with the Human Highlight Film. But by the early 1990s, it was clear that Nique’s teams had run their course.

Until Lenny Wilkens took over as Hawks coach for the 1993-94 campaign. Sporting a stellar 36-16 record at the All-Star break, the Hawks made the most startling trade in their history. Wilkins was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Manning. The Hawks continued rolling to a 57-25 record (21-9 post-Nique) tying the club record from 1987. The Indiana Pacers, however, dispatched those Hawks in six games during the EC Semi-Finals and the next year – and final season of this decade – Atlanta regressed to 42 wins.

Still, Atlanta had acquired some valuable pieces for the new regime: Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith. The offseason acquisition of Dikembe Mutombo after the 1995-96 campaign gave the Hawks hope for renewed success in the coming decade.

STARTING FIVE

C – Moses Malone (1988-’91) – 244 Games
16.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 48.2% FG, 79.5% FT

F – Dominique Wilkins (1986-’94) – 560 Games
27.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 46.5% FG, 82.8% FT

F – Kevin Willis (1986-’94) – 560 Games
15.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 50.7 % FG, 70.3% FT

G- Doc Rivers (1986-’91) – 365 Games
13.7 PPG, 7.4 APG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 44.9% FG, 81.6% FT

G – Mookie Blaylock (1992-’96) – 322 Games
15.0 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6 SPG, 41.8% FG, 36.1% 3PT, 73.3% FT

BENCH

G – Spud Webb (1986-’91, 1995’96) – 404 Games
7.6 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.2% FG, 84.6% FT

F – Stacey Augmon (1991-’96) – 390 Games
13.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 48.8% FG, 73.9% FT

G – Steve Smith (1994-’96) – 196 Games
17.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 43.0% FG, 83.5% FT

NEXT DECADE (1996-97 through 2005-06)
PREVIOUS DECADE (1976-77 through 1985-96)

Atlanta Hawks Franchise History: 1996-97 through 2005-06

Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks (sportslogos.net)

Championships: 0
Conference Titles: 0
Division Titles: 0

Regular Season Record: 325-463
Regular Season Win Percentage: 41.2%
Playoff Appearances: 3
Playoff Series Wins: 2
Playoff Record: 8-15

This was a miserable decade in Hawks’ history. They only had three winning seasons and they were all frontloaded in 1997, 1998 and 1999. During this three-year stretch, the Hawks won 64% of their games. Naturally, the selections for this decade’s players are also frontloaded in this period. Dikembe Mutombo was brightest spot for the Hawks nabbing back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 1997 and 1998. After being swept by the New York Knicks in the 2nd Round of the 1999 playoffs, the aging Hawks were blown up and Lenny Wilkens left as coach in 2000.

From 2000 till 2006, Atlanta mustered a pathetic winning percentage of .328, bottoming out in 2005 with just 13 wins. From that point on, Mike Woodson would slowly rebuild the Hawks into a frisky playoff team during their next decade.

PREVIOUS DECADE
1986-87 through 1995-96

STARTING FIVE

C – Dikembe Mutombo – 343 Games
11.9 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 52.9% FG, 69.2% FT

F – Christian Laettner – 156 Games
16.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 48.5% FG, 83.8% FT

F – Shareef Abdur-Rahim – 211 Games
20.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 47.3% FG, 83.5% FT

G- Steve Smith – 181 Games
19.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 43% FG, 85.1% FT

G – Mookie Blaylock – 196 Games
14.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 2.5 SPG, 40.6% FG, 73.9% FT

BENCH

Jason Terry - 403 Games
16.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 45.5% FG, 36.7% 3PT, 84.5% FT

Alan Henderson - 406 Games
10.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 46.4% FG, 64.8% FT

Tyrone Corbin – 196 Games
9.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 42.3% FG, 75.6% FT

Atlanta Hawks – Honored and Retired Jerseys

Buffalo Bison (1946) ● Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1946-1951)
Milwaukee Hawks (1951 – 1955) ● St. Louis Hawks (1955-1968)

Retired Numbers
#9 Bob Pettit (1954 – 1965)

Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit

Finals winner; 3x Finalist; 4x Conference Finalist
2x MVP, 10x All-NBA 1st Team, All-NBA 2nd Team, 11x All-Star
Rookie of the Year, 4x ASG MVP, 2x MVP Runner-Up
26.4 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.0 APG
43.6% FG, 76.1% FT, 25.3 PER, 136 Win Shares
Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame

#21 Dominique Wilkins (1982 – 1994)

Nique Dunk All-NBA 1st Team, 4x All-NBA 2nd Team, 2x All-NBA 3rd Team
9x All-Star,  All-Rookie Team, MVP Runner-Up
26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.7 BPG
46.7% FG, 81.3% FT, 22.1 PER, 107.4 Win Shares
Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame

#23 Lou Hudson (1966 – 1977)

Lou Hudson
Lou Hudson

3x Conference Finalist
All-NBA 2nd Team, 6x All-Star, All-Rookie Team
22.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.7 SPG
48.7% FG, 79.5% FT, 18.0 PER, 73.5 Win Shares
Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame

#16 Cliff Hagan (1956 – 1966)

Cliff HaganFinals Winner; 3x Finalist; 4x Conference Finalist
2x All-NBA 2nd Team, 5x All-Star
18.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.0 APG
45.0% FG, 79.8% FT, 19.5 PER, 75.1 Win Shares
Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame

#14 Lenny Wilkens (1960 – 1968)

(via nba.com/hawks)
(via nba.com/hawks)

Finalist; 4x Conference Finalist
5x All-Star, MVP Runner-Up
15.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.9 RPG
42.1% FG, 75.7% FT, 14.9 PER, 47.6 Win Shares
Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame

Honored Numbers
#3 Eddie Johnson (1977 – 1986)
#4 Spud Webb (1985 – 1991; 1995-’96)
#5 Chuck Share (1953 – 1959)
#8 Walt Bellamy (1970 – 1974)
#8 Steve Smith (1994 – 1999)
#10 Mookie Blaylock (1992 – 1999)
#15 Don Otten (1946 – 1950, 1952-’53)
#15 Richie Guerin (1963 – 1967; 1969-’70)
#20 Ed Macauley (1956 – 1959)
#22 John Drew (1974 – 1982)
#25 Doc Rivers (1983 – 1991)
#27 Joe Caldwell (1966 – 1970)
#30 Tree Rollins (1977 – 1988)
#31 Zelmo Beaty (1962 – 1969)
#32 Bill Bridges (1962 – 1971)
#32 Dan Roundfield (1978 – 1984)
#34 Clyde Lovellette (1959 – 1962)
#42 Kevin Willis (1984 – 1994; 2004-’05)
#44 Pete Maravich (1970 – 1974)
#55 Dikembe Mutombo (1996 – 2001)

Pro Hoops Podcast: Hall of Famer Richie Guerin

(Image via NBA.com)
(Image via NBA.com)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Springfield, Massachusetts, for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Saturday afternoon, I was able to have a wonderful 10-minute interview with Knicks and Hawks legend Richie Guerin. He set Knicks records for points (57) and assists (21) in a game and remains the winningest coach in St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks history.

Guerin is a favorite here at Pro Hoops History and has had two features on his playing career. So definitely checks those out after listening to the man speak about his playing career, family, time as a Marine, and his years coaching the Hawks.

The Lowdown: Richie Guerin
Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame: Richie Guerin

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Pete Maravich

Pete Maravich (Yahoo! Sports)
Pete Maravich (Yahoo! Sports)

On April 27, 1980, Pete Maravich scored four points for the Boston Celtics in a 105 to 94 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers. The loss proved to be Boston’s fourth in nine days to Philadelphia and cemented their ouster from the 1980 Eastern Conference Finals. Maravich’s season was over and it was easily the worst of his 10-year career averaging just 13.7 points a game. It soon became clear that more than Maravich’s season was finished. His career was also at an end. The Celtics didn’t re-sign Maravich for the following campaign and Pete was gone from the NBA for good.

10 years earlier in 1970, Maravich was welcomed to the NBA with the finest red carpet treatment.

“Pistol Pete” was drafted 3rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks. It was a wise move for the NBA’s only southern outpost to draft the supremely gifted guard from Louisiana State University. During his three varsity seasons as an LSU Tiger, Maravich had averaged 44 points per game. No one expected that kind of average in the NBA, but the Pistol quickly made himself comfortable in the pro league.

As a rookie in 1970-71, he averaged 23 points and 4.5 assists. In his sophomore season, he assumed greater ball-handling duties so his points dropped to 19 while his assists burgeoned to six per game. Then in the 1972-73 season both roles coalesced under Hawks coach Cotton Fitzsimmons who implored Maravich and his running mate Lou Hudson to work off one another with free-lance, jazz-like ease.

Pistol shot up to 26 points a game, and averaged a career-high 7 assists. Meanwhile Sweet Lou averaged 27 points creating one of the great scoring duos in NBA history. As Hudson lined up saccharine jumper after saccharine jumper, Maravich handled the basketball like a yo-yo on a string.

Pete Maravich
Pete Maravich

Pistol juked, faked, and fooled opponents night after night with his flamboyant dribbling. His passes were pure magic as the ball seemed to teleport through defenders to hit seemingly un-open men. His court vision was unsurpassed. His ability to weave in and out of defenses for fancy layups truly remarkable. His long-range jump shooting hadn’t deteriorated in the least bit since his collegiate days.

But for all of his talent and grace, Maravich’s greatest success on a team was with the Boston Celtics in 1980. In 1971 and 1972, the Hawks made the playoffs, but had done so with subpar 36-win seasons. The 1973 Hawks are the best club he played a significant role on winning 46 games. Nonetheless, they were bounced after one playoff round. Maravich wouldn’t see the postseason again until his short time with the Celtics in 1980. The rest of his career is marked by underwhelming records largely because of one fateful trade.

In May 1974, the newly-formed New Orleans Jazz traded two players, two first round picks (one used to take David Thompson), two second round picks (one used to take Alex English), and a third round pick all for Pete Maravich.

As great as Maravich was, that kind of trade is a death sentence to success. The Jazz as an expansion club had no reserve of talent to aid the newly-arrived Maravich. The draft was their only sure way to build a club in the days before unrestricted free agency and they had given away much of their draft picks. When the Jazz did sign a free agent, Gail Goodrich, they had to pay compensation to his old club, the Los Angeles Lakers. New Orleans forked over yet another first round pick (used to pick Magic Johnson) for the aging Goodrich who tore his Achilles after joining the Jazz.

Add to all of that chicanery the general ethos of Jazz ownership that the best way to put fans in the seats was for hometown favorite Maravich to score early, often, and always, and the team was headed for disaster.

During his five seasons in New Orleans, it is truly a testament to Maravich that the Jazz somehow had mediocre campaigns of 38, 35 and 39 wins sandwiched between horrific seasons of 23 and 26 wins. He was twice selected to the All-NBA 1st Team and in 1977 led the league in points per game. The New Orleans experiment had failed, though, and for the 1979-80 season they moved to Utah. That setup Pete’s departure for Boston and his ultimate departure from the NBA.

Despite the woeful way his career unfolded, Maravich is still fondly remembered for the way he entertained while on the court. Few players have ever played with the flair and style he exhibited. From the floppy hair and socks, to his cool-handed and slick passes, to a jersey that simply said “Pistol”, Maravich was one of a kind and a joyous pleasure to watch.

Years Played: 1970 – 1980

Accolades

NBA -
2x All-NBA 1st Team (1976-’77)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1973, 1978)
5x All-Star (1973-’74, 1977-’79)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1971)

Statistics

NBA - 658 Games
24.2 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 44.1% FG, 82.0% FT
PPG Leader (1977), MPG Leader (1977)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1970-71 through 1979-80 season)
3rd Points, 6th PPG
4th FGs Made
4th FTs Made, 27th FT%
9th Assists, 12th APG
25th Steals, 26th SPG
22nd Games Played, 14th Minutes Played

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Dominique Wilkins

Dominique

Few, if any players, ever threw down a dunk as fiercely as Dominique Wilkins.

To begin any discussion with ‘Nique in any other fashion is impossible. His dunks were just so explosive, so ferocious, so awe-inspiring, you can’t properly think of anything else when you first think of him. The violent windmills, the sledgehammer slams, the dynamite dunks, it’s all too much for any other first impression to find a way into your head.

Those spectacular dunks made Wilkins a bona fide star in the NBA. Fans in Atlanta have never loved a basketball player as much as they loved Wilkins. The team may lose the game, but in an era of nascent cable sports coverage, Wilkins was your nightly highlight reel. So dependable were his highlight dunks, that he became the Human Highlight Film.

Roll the ball out on the court and watch the showmanship ensue.

A singular talent, even one as singular as Nique’s dunks, never wholly defines a man. Wilkins didn’t score over 25,000 points in the NBA purely on dunks. He had a good, but not great, jump shot that kept defenses honest. Their honesty allowed for Wilkins’ vicious forays to the basket for the aforementioned dunks, or for Wilkins to score on a variety of slashing layups and leaning jumpers.

Always-forgotten aspects of Dominique’s game have been his rebounding and passing. You’re not going to mistake him for Rick Barry or any other savant passing small forward, but as his career wore on, Wilkins became better at passing out of double teams. This simple pass is nonetheless a difficult one for many players to learn. And as a small forward, Wilkins was a tremendous rebounder. Unsurprisingly, his explosive hops were good for cleaning the glass as well as devastating dunks.

Wilkins’ time with Atlanta is the most successful period in the Hawks’ long history there. The 57 wins he pushed the Hawks to in 1987 remain the most in any single Hawks season, whether it’s Atlanta, St. Louis, Milwaukee, or the Tri-Cities. In 1988, the Hawks won 50 games and that postseason featured Dominique’s most famous moment… non-Slam Dunk Contest Division, of course.

Wilkins Bird

Warming up for his eventual showdown with Larry Bird, Wilkins eviscerated the Milwaukee Bucks in the East’s 1st Round. With an average of 31 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2.2 steals, Wilkins proved unstoppable in the five-game series that Atlanta won 3-games-to-2.

In the East Semis against Boston, Wilkins was less impressive through that series’ first five games. He was scoring 27.5 points, but on 40% shooting after blistering the Bucks with 48% shooting through the five games of that series. Nonetheless, Atlanta held a 3-games-to-2 lead on Boston and narrowly missed out on eliminating the Celtics in Game 6, losing 102-100. Nique had 35 points in the loss as he did all he could to eliminate Boston on Atlanta’s homecourt. Determined to push Atlanta to the Eastern Conference Finals, Wilkins was on fire for the entirety of Game 7 in Boston Garden. He scored 47 points in a myriad of seemingly back-breaking ways… but Larry Bird staved off the final fracture with 20 points in the fourth quarter to save the Celtics and sink Atlanta.

That amazing duel was the pinnacle of Atlanta’s team success, but Wilkins continued on as one of the premier NBA players. Over the next six seasons (1989 to 1994), he averaged 27 points and continued to be a perennial all-star. Finally at the age of 35, Wilkins slowed in 1995 averaging just 18 points per game. After a year in Greece, Wilkins returned to the NBA in 1997 with the San Antonio Spurs and the living legend still managed to score 18 points per game at age 37.

The Human Highlight Film finally retired for good after the 1999 lockout-shortened season. The in-person reel may have ceased playing at your local stadium, but thank goodness his magnificent play was recorded for all of posterity to enjoy in the comfort of their homes.

Beware, though, the visceral dunks may cause you to go into a frenzy.

Years Played: 1982 – 1999

Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks

Accolades

NBA – 
All-NBA 1st Team (1986)
4x All-NBA 2nd Team (1987-’88, 1991, 1993)
2x All-NBA 3rd Team (1989, 1994)
9x All-Star (1986-’94)

Statistics

NBA – 1074 Games
24.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 46.1% FG, 81.1% FT
PPG Leader (1986)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1982-83 through 1996-97 season)
2nd Points, 5th PPG
2nd FGs Made, 3rd FTs Made
16th Rebounds, 17th Steals
6th Games Played, 2nd Minutes Played

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Walt Bellamy

(sportige)
(sportige)

I’ve written before about the absurdity that Walt Bellamy’s career faced. Unfairly maligned for having his scoring average drop over the first seven seasons of his career, the circumstances of Bellamy’s career should be taken into account.

As a rookie in 1962 Bellamy was absolutely fantastic, averaging 31.6 points, 19.0 rebounds, and 51.6% shooting from the field. That field goal percentage was the highest yet in NBA history. Those averages are all the more remarkable when you consider just how awful the Chicago Packers were that season. As the NBA’s first expansion team in a decade, they were the whipping post of teams around the league who all had at least two all-star caliber players.

Over the next three seasons, Bellamy continued with the Packers franchise, which moved to Baltimore and became the Bullets in 1963. The club would improve slightly, but would for the most part be in chaotic shambles for years. To illustrate the point, Bellamy played for five different coaches in his 4+ seasons with the franchise. Mercifully for Bellamy, he was traded to the New York Knicks just a few games into the 1965-66 season.

Teaming with Willis Reed to form a devastating one-two punch in the frontcourt, in 1967 Bellamy was able to help pull the Knicks to their first playoff appearance since 1959. The next year, New York achieved its first winning record since that 1959 season, too.

The team was clearly benefiting from Bellamy’s stern defense and rebounding. His offense had simmered down to the 19-point range, but on a team becoming stacked with players like Reed, Dick Van Arsdale, Dick Barnett, and Cazzie Russell, not one single super scorer was needed. What the Knicks were lacking most of these years was a true point guard, and a resolution to the Bellamy-Reed problem.

The point guard solution would come via Walt Frazier‘s arrival in the 1967-68 season, but that didn’t fix up the fact that Bellamy was playing center and Willis Reed was stuck at power forward. The two men got along, but Knicks management decided that a true power forward was needed and that the older center in Bellamy would be the center sacrificed.

Midway through the 1968-69 season, Bells was sent to Detroit for Dave DeBusschere. The trade turned the Knicks from a good team to a title contender. Bellamy languished in Detroit for one unfortunate season before being shipped to Atlanta, where he finally seemed to find some basketball peace.

For the last four years of his career, he left the scoring duties to Pete Maravich and Lou Hudson, and focused on what the team sorely needed: defense and rebounding. Those Hawks clubs would make the postseason three times under this stellar trio before Bellamy retired in 1974.

By that point, the boundless athleticism of his early days was gone. He once was able to perform some of the most rim-shaking dunks the NBA had yet seen, including one where he glided baseline and put in a reverse slam. He was always tremendously strong and imposing, standing a shade under 7’0″. None of that made him the greatest center of his era, but he’s certainly more than just a big man who put up big numbers. He is one of just of several players throughout NBA history to languish in unfortunate circumstances, like a Mitch Richmond, despite personal greatness.

In the end, Walt Bellamy’s career is one that reminds us that basketball is a team sport. No one player or person, even a Hall of Famer, can dictate a franchise’s ultimate course.

Seasons Played: 1962 – 1974

Accolades

NBA -
Rookie of the Year (1962)
4x All-Star (1962-’65)

Statistics

NBA - 1043 Games
20.1 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 51.6% FG, 63.2% FT
FG% Leader (1962)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1962 – 1974)
4th Points,  20th PPG,
3rd FTs Made
5th FGs Made, 3rd FG%
2nd Rebounds, 10th RPG
19th Assists
1st Games Played, 3rd Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Lou Hudson

Lou Hudson

The last great player to emerge from the St. Louis Hawks, Lou Hudson was a member of the All-Rookie 1st Team in 1967 thanks to a healthy 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds that season. The sweet shooting Super Lou seemingly had a sophomore slump in 1968, though. He averaged a disappointing 12.5 points in only 46 games. The true story here though is that the military drafted Hudson and kept him from the NBA for half the season. By the time he fully returned to form, the Hawks had flown the Missouri coop and landed in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hudson’s game truly took flight in the Peach State.

From 1969 to 1975, Hudson averaged 25 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 49.6% FG and 80.3% FT. His defensive acumen is hinted at in the 1974 season when averaged 2.5 steals a game. Sadly, we don’t know how truly incredible he was in that department since that was the first season steals were tracked.

What we do know is that Hudson formed an offensive juggernaut playing alongside Pete Maravich. The two men played seamlessly off one another. Maravich would push the rock and Hudson would smoothly work off the ball. The tandem fit together like hand and glove. They reached their apogee in 1973 and 1974 where they combined for 53 points a game both years. With Walt Bellamy anchoring the middle, these teams always made the playoffs in the early 1970s (except in ’74).

They were a good team, but not good enough in the East. The Celtics and Knicks ruled the roost and thwarted the Hawks. In 1973, Hudson scorched the postseason with a league-leading 30 points a game, but that would be the last time he appeared in the playoffs until 1978 with the Lakers. By then he was older and not quite as effective.

An elbow injury in 1974 led to his untimely demise at the age of 29. Without that unfortunate injury, Super Lou would have had a few more years of prime time 20+ PPG seasons. Nonetheless, his incredible game was rewarded with six straight all-star appearances from 1969 to 1974. He notched 57 points in a game. His jersey is one of just three retired by the Hawks.

He achieved all of this thanks to a jump shot that’d make even the sweetest of Georgia peaches taste like a bland Southern cracker.

Seasons Played: 1966 – 1979

Accolades

NBA -
All-NBA 2nd Team (1970)
6x All-Star (1969-’74)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1967)

Statistics

NBA - 890 Games
20.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 48.9% FG, 79.7% FT

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1966-67 through 1978-79 season)
6th Points, 21st PPG
4th FGs Made, 21st FG%
15th FTs Made, 33rd FT%
22nd Steals*, 20th SPG*
7th Games Played, 9th Minutes Played

*Stats not kept until the 1973-74 season