Atlanta Hawks Honor NBA Legend Dominique Wilkins with Statue While Players Talk about Faith and Great Season

( [email protected] ) Mar 16, 2015 08:12 PM EDT
Dominique Wilkins
Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins speaks at the unveiling of his statue at Philips Arena in Atlanta. EPA

NBA legend Dominique Wilkins was honored by the Atlanta Hawks last week with a large statue at Philips Arena. In addition to talking about Wilkins, current Hawks players Jarnell Eddie, Shelvin Mack, Mike Scott and Elton Brand also commented on the Christian faith and the team's current system.

In a video made for the Gospel Herald, reporter Clyde Davis spoke with some members of the current Atlanta roster about the legacy Wilkins left on their team.

"It was a tremendous honor to be a part of this program, to see them do that for him," Eddie said. "[He's] such a great player who means a lot to our organization and the city of Atlanta."

Davis told Eddie that the Hawks were having a great season so far. He wondered what contributed to the team's current success on the basketball court.

"The camaraderie in the locker room," Eddie said. "We are guys who love each other. It shows up on the court, the way we move the ball. We just love playing with each other and we're winning because of it."

The video then turned its focus to Mack, who first commented on Wilkins.

"It feels great to be able to come out to compete for a guy who sacrificed so much for our organization," Mack said.

Davis asked Mack a similar question about the team's performance. Mack credited teamwork as one of the reasons behind the team's success this season.

"We don't have any selfish guys on this team, really," Mack said. "We have 15 guys who can do that. It makes it easy to go out there and play at a high level."

Davis then asked him a question about how the themes of family and his Christian faith personally affected his life.

"That's the backbone, my family," Mack said. "You always have to keep your faith in God. You'll have ups and downs, especially in basketball, this career, and in your life. You have to stay level-headed and keep pushing."

Atlanta Hawks Guard Talk Faith
Atlanta Hawks guard Shelvin Mack. (Photo: The Gospel Herald)

Davis transitioned to Scott, who had a few comments about Wilkins.

"We all sat there and saw the statue," Scott said. "I learned so much about Dominique that I didn't know, [like] how much great of a player he was and so much he did off the court for the city of Atlanta. He deserves it, and I'm happy for him."

Scott also received the question from Davis about what contributed to the success of the Hawks.

"Just staying together," Scott said. "We don't have any egos on the team. We're like a brotherhood. It's like a college team. We just want to keep winning."

In the final interview on the video, David captured Brand's thoughts on Wilkins.

"It's a special honor for a special guy," Brand said. "He's synonymous with the city of Atlanta, not just in sports, but what he's done in the community. It's a great honor for him."

Brand then elaborated on the factors behind the Hawks' performance on the court.

"It's the great system coach [Mike Budenholzer] put in," Brand said. "[We have] great guys who want to implement that system, trusting each other and playing for each other."

In his last question, Davis asked Brand on how God has influenced his life both on and off the basketball court.

"Just blessed," Brand said. "My mom started taking me to church [when I was] about 12, 13 years old. We praised the Lord most high every day. She kind of put that work ethic into me to go study, be a part of God, and love God with all our heart."

Davis posted a separate YouTube video of the ceremony honoring Wilkins. It showed Wilkins how much he appreciated Atlanta.

"Even though I'm not from Atlanta, I'm from Atlanta," Wilkins said to the cheering crowd. "Now I can say that I am a Hawk [player] forever because you guys immortalized me with that statue out front."

According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, the bronze statue, which was first unveiled at a private luncheon and ceremony on the arena floor, measured 13.5 feet in height and contained a granite base. In addition to the current Hawks roster and coaching staff, Hawks alumni, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Julius Erving, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Bernard King and Charles Barkley were also there to commemorate the event.

"We talk about being immortalized in your life," an emotional Wilkins told the audience. "What bigger stage to stand on than to have a statue of you in front of the franchise and building that you love? I know nobody who loves this organization like I do ... I bleed and breathe Hawks."

Wilkins added that he "felt funny" even when he played for other teams.

Arnovitz reported that the sculptor, Brian Hanlon, studied numerous still photos and videos of Wilkins on the basketball court. He ended up choosing the moment of "anticipation of the dunk" as the statue's pose.

According to Arnovitz, Wilkins, known affectionately by NBA fans as the "Human Highlight Film," was an 11-time All-Star who held the franchise record for points (23,292) and games played (882) during his tenure in Atlanta, which lasted over 11 seasons.

"One of the NBA's more dynamic dunkers, Wilkins was the centerpiece of a Hawks team that won at least 50 games over four consecutive seasons in the 1980s," Arnovitz wrote. "His shootout with the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird in the Hawks' Game 7 loss of the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals is regarded as one of the NBA's most iconic games."

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