I knew Connie Hawkins’ name, but I didn’t know his game.
I knew he was a basketball player well before my time. I couldn’t say with certainty who he played for or how he played.
After learning of his death Saturday, I spent some time educating myself.
The fact that he was banned from playing NCAA hoops and briefly by the NBA for suspected - but not proven - links to a point-shaving scandal surprised me, but not as much as what I saw in the highlights.
The clips show Hawkins had some flair to his game, not shocking considering he spent some time with the Harlem Globetrotters.
He was clearly more athletic than most his peers and looked like an early version of Dr. J. Hawkins also had a knack for making one-handed passes from the block that would drop jaws today. If anything, he seemed fun to watch.
It made me wish I had the curiosity to do a deep dive earlier.
Instead, I’ll share some players that I’ve had the most fun watching - not the best - as I’ve grown up with the game. I’ll limit myself to five (Honorable Mentions: Baron Davis, Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, Shawn Marion, Shawn Kemp).
The 6-foot-7 point guard is the center of many well-discussed “what if” conversations, most of which are about his health. Penny burst on the scene in the mid 90s, just as I was falling in love with the game. A little too late for Magic Johnson’s prime, Hardaway was my introduction to a point guard with a seemingly unreal combination of size and skill. That allowed him to prolong his career, but he was never the same as he was during his first five brilliant years in the NBA.
This one is for Nuggets fans who love Nikola Jokic (and one of my best friends who has made sure I don’t forget Sabonis. Thanks, Matt). Forgive the seemingly lazy comparison, but both are European center whose most exciting plays are assists. Both could score inside and out. Fortunately for Nuggets fans, we seem to be getting to watch the best of Jokic. Sabonis’ prime came in Europe where he was a much more athletic player. He came to the NBA after injuries had taken their toll.
It’s tough to say where Carter’s legacy will end up, probably because he’s still playing (and dunking) at 40. His game has evolved, allowing his career to span the good part of two decades, but young “Vinsanity” was something else. For me, he’s unmatched as the best in-game dunker. The argument was pretty much sealed when he cleared a 7-footer in the 2002 Olympics with a dunk that stands the test of time.
Odom’s lasting memory seems to have shifted away from his career on the hardwood in recent years and more towards his public battle with addiction. That’s too bad because Odom could do it all and would have been fun to watch in this era of positionless ball.
Anyone that knows me well knew how this was ending. Williams was so fun to watch I considered tuning into the Big3 to see if he still had wildly creative passes and crippling crossovers in his arsenal. Unfortunately he got hurt early, so I was left with his ridiculous YouTube clips. The man crossed up Gary Payton and John Stockton and throws a more accurate one-hand, no-look pass than most point guards do with two hands and their eyes on the target.
I figured my music recommendation should fit the mood and era of this post...Most of the music I listened to growing up has not aged well. Luckily, it wasn’t all bad. My introduction to Outkast -indubitably one of the best hip hop groups of all time - came with the release of “Stankonia” in 2000. It doesn’t get more fun than "B.O.B."-