(FortCollins-CO) The tread on Connie Hawkins’s high tops has been worn on almost every elite level of basketball in history. No other player is shrouded in more controversy, mystery, player-to-player respect, and acknowledgement. Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins played in the rough and rugged street games of Brooklyn, New York, toured with the Harlem Globetrotters, was a MVP in the brief history of the ABL, MVP winner in the ABA in the same year as winning the ABA championship, and four time NBA All-Star. The Nugg Doctor sees no reason applicable to not dedicate this installment of Historical Glimpses to Hawkins.
The Hawk’s enigmatic history would begin in the bump and shuffle of New York City pick up games. Destiny would give Connie two things in his life. The ability to swoop to the basket while palming the ball with grace and style in both hands, and the perfect last name for his inevitable alias, “The Hawk.” It was on these streets, in these unorganized games, that the legend of Connie Hawkins would be established. Controversy would soon follow him, as he would soon be associated with a college gambling scandal at the University of Iowa (where he never even played!) These allegations, which he would never be convicted of any wrongdoing, would prevent Hawk from entry into the NBA at this point in his career.
The next stop in Connie’s future would be with the owner/founder of the Harlem Globetrotters, Abe Saperstein. Connie toured with the Globetrotters for a couple years during the era where “black-on-black” basketball had a limited audience and outlet. It would be when Saperstein would try to create the American Basketball League in 1961 did Hawkins make his debut in truly organized ball. He did get honored as the League MVP in 1961 while playing for the Pittsburgh Rens, but the league would only last for 19 months total and be dissolved on January 1st, 1963 due to financial disaster.
After a few years away from the game, Connie would write his next chapters of his career with the Pittsburgh and Minnesota Pipers in the newly organized ABA. The Hawk would immediately be regarded as the marquee player in the league in 1967. He would lead the Pipers to the league championship in a grueling seven game series against the New Orleans Buccaneers, win MVP honors, and establish credibility for the ABA as a serious league to be contended with. He would average 26.8 points per game, drop 4.6 assists, and squeeze 13.5 boards. He would trump those numbers next year in Minnesota. Scoring 30.2 points and grabbing 11.4 rebounds Connie would have his best year statistically of his career. Most importantly this would solidify his skills as NBA caliber and the Phoenix Suns would sign Connie the next year.
In the NBA, the Hawk would have four years being elected to the All-Star team, but never win another championship. He played seven years for the Suns and had short stints with the Lakers and Atlanta Hawks. Hawkins’s career NBA numbers are solid (16.5 points per game, eight rebounds, and 4.1 assists) as are his ABA totals (28.2 points, 12.6 boards, and 4.3 assists). It is what this man endured from racial tension in the early sixties, overcoming scandal, and being a true journeyman of the game that makes Connie Hawkins one of the games truly unique stories of triumph. It was only fitting that his last stop be the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. His game will always be remembered for its grace, power, and flare that can only be attributed to his overcoming adversity and superior skills. Regardless of where, when, and who he played with the Hawk was a force to reckoned with.