(This article appears in the official 2003 NBA All-Star Game Program.)
The Hawks have had four hometowns, won 10 division titles and brought home one NBA Championship.
But don’t forget the stars.
The franchise has had some great ones, from Bob Pettit to the Human Highlight Film. From Pistol Pete to Sweet Lou. As the NBA All-Star Game lights up Atlanta, it’s time to take another look at some of the franchise’s greatest players ever.
Bellamy’s time with the Hawks wasn’t all that long—just four-plus seasons—but while in Atlanta he was a pivot fixture and a strong interior force. Bellamy was the ’62 NBA Rookie of the Year with the old Chicago Zephyrs (later the Baltimore Bullets, later the Washington Wizards) and came to Atlanta from Detroit in ’70, one year after a midseason trade allowed him to set an NBA record by playing in 88 regular-season games.
Bob Pettit spent all 11 seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Hawks organization.|
The 6-11, 245-pounder averaged a double-double for all but two of the 13 full seasons he played and grabbed 15 or more boards a night four times. Each of the Hawks editions on which Bellamy played reached the postseason, and he was an extremely effective middle man in each of the playoff runs. Bellamy was a high-percentage finisher inside, a pretty good passer for a man his size and a physical defender.
After a legendary career at Kentucky, where he played on a national championship team, Hagan was drafted by the Boston Celtics and soon became a part of one of the biggest trades in NBA history.
Hagan spent two years following college in the military but returned to be swapped, with the draft rights to Ed Macauley, to St. Louis for Bill Russell. Hawk fans shouldn’t lament the trade, since Hagan had a great career with St. Louis and played a key role on the ’58 NBA title team.
A powerful forward despite his 6-4 frame, Hagan was a potent interior scorer thanks to his strength and reliable hook shot. He defended tenaciously and was a productive rebounder. He teamed with Bob Pettit on one of the most lethal forward combinations in the League. Hagan was particularly dangerous from ’58-62, when he averaged 20 or more points in each season, topping out at 24.8 in ’59-60.
Although the Hawks didn’t enjoy huge success during their early years in Atlanta, they could always count on Sweet Lou to provide excitement.
For a six-year stretch in the late ’60s and early ’70s, there were few more productive scorers in the NBA than Hudson. Drafted fourth overall by the Hawks in ’66, after a strong career at the University of Minnesota, Hudson had a solid first few years with the club; when the Hawks moved to Atlanta, he blossomed.
Hudson was a smooth, 6-5 forward who made his living on the wing, where he knocked down a high percentage of jumpers and finished consistently on the fast break. Hudson averaged 25 or more points four different times, with a high-water mark of 27.1 ppg in ’72-73. Though Hudson was a graceful presence, he could handle the rough stuff inside and was a strong rebounder. The Hawks traded him to Los Angeles after the ’76-77 season, then retired his No. 23 when the Lakers came to Atlanta the following year.
He came riding out of Louisiana, his stringy hair flopping and his socks sagging. Yes, sir, Pistol Pete was an original. And for four seasons, he was a Hawk.
Atlanta picked him third overall in the ’70 draft, after Maravich had averaged an amazing, never-to-be-duplicated 44.2 ppg at LSU. He was an instant smash, thrilling fans with his ball-handling wizardry and long-range shooting. Maravich was the consummate hardwood entertainer, and he could be counted on for some sort of magic every night.
The Hawks selected Pete Maravich with the third pick in the 1970 Draft.|
Maravich earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie team in ’71, after averaging 23.2 ppg. He struggled with injuries the next year but blossomed during his final two seasons in Atlanta, averaging 26.1 and 27.7 ppg. Maravich played with passion and flair, but his presence couldn’t guarantee the Hawks any real success. They exited the postseason after just one round three straight years.
In May of ’74, Atlanta launched a rebuilding process by sending Maravich to the Jazz for two players and four draft choices. His time in Atlanta was over, but Maravich’s legend lived on, and he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in ’96.
Even though Rivers played just eight seasons with the Hawks, he is the franchise’s all-time assist leader, evidence that he understood his role quite well and was more than willing to fill it.
Rivers was a second-round draft pick out of Marquette, where he distinguished himself as a sound all-around player but didn’t dazzle with his game. For a while, his biggest claim to fame was his nickname, which he earned after wearing a Dr. J T-shirt to a basketball camp. But when Rivers landed in the NBA, he initially refused to use the handle out of respect for Julius Erving, who was still active. Once Dr. J retired, Glenn Rivers became Doc Rivers once again.
Rivers was at his dishing best from ’85-89, when he was among the league leaders in assists. In ’86-87, he handed out 10 dimes a night, a career-high. Although Rivers never scored a ton, he was a reliable mid-range producer, and his strong (6-4, 210) frame allowed him to outmuscle smaller guards close to the hoop. A one-time All-Star (’88), Rivers is now in his fourth year coaching the Orlando Magic; he was named NBA Coach of the Year in ’00.
Others may have scored more points, but no Hawk had a more productive and successful career than Pettit, who went from All-American at Louisiana State directly to the NBA All-Star Game -- and stayed there for his entire career.
Pettit played 11 NBA seasons, beginning in the Hawks’ final year in Milwaukee, and remains the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder. A powerful 6-9 forward, Pettit was a dominant interior force capable of matching up favorably against many of the centers of the late ’50s and ’60s. Pettit’s finest moment came in ’58, when he led the Hawks to their only NBA title, besting the Boston Celtics who had defeated St. Louis in a grueling seven-game NBA Finals series the previous year.
Pettit is a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, was a 10-time All-NBA First-Team selection and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
A key member of the Atlanta Hawks’ ’79-80 Central Division championship outfit, Dan Roundfield was a three-time All-Star during his six years with the squad and a huge frontcourt presence.
The 6-8, 205-pounder was a surefire double-double man who scored well close to the basket, thanks to his athletic skills and leaping ability, but could also hit the mid-range jumper. Roundfield twice led the Hawks in scoring (18.6 ppg in ’81-82 and 19.0 ppg in ’82-83) and was Atlanta’s top rebounder (he averaged 10.7 boards over his Hawks career) each of his six seasons with the club. Roundfield began his career with Indiana and was signed as a free agent in the summer of ’78. Atlanta traded him to the Detroit Pistons six years later for Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr.
When Magic Johnson entered the League in ’79, many believed the point-guard position had been transformed forever. Gone was the quick, short playmaker, replaced by the taller, stronger floor general. Six years later, Spud Webb changed all that.
Only 5-7, Webb became an NBA starter who paved the way for future mighty mites. Webb was known primarily for his outstanding, eye-popping leaping ability. That he could dunk amazed some. That he could do so with such flair seemed practically impossible, but he won the ’86 NBA Slam Dunk.
And Webb was more than just a curiosity. He logged 2,000-plus minutes each in two (’89-90, ’90-91) of his seven seasons with the Hawks and led the team in assists both years. Webb was a solid shooter and quick defensive pest who thrived in the open court. By the time his career ended, he was no longer known as much for his diminutive stature as for his strong NBA game.
The classic complete guard, Wilkens was a stalwart on the final eight St. Louis teams, giving the Hawks fine all-around play from the point-guard position.
Though just 6-1, Wilkens was capable of operating well anywhere on the court, a fact evidenced by six seasons with five or more rebounds per night. He wasn’t an overwhelming scorer at Providence College or during his first few years in St. Louis, but Wilkens blossomed into quite a threat by the time he was established with the club. His best statistical performance with the Hawks came during his last season (’67-68) as a member of the franchise, when he averaged 20.0 ppg, 8.3 apg and 5.3 rpg.
Though not a tremendously accurate shooter, Wilkens had good range on his left-handed shot and rarely made a bad decision with the ball. He also played aggressive defense. Wilkens played in five All-Star Games while with St. Louis (nine total, including winning All-Star MVP in ’71) and was traded to Seattle in ’68.
While in Seattle, Wilkens expanded his role to that of player/head coach. His coaching stints have included time in Portland, Cleveland, Toronto and Atlanta. During the seven years he spent with the Hawks, he broke the all-time record for coaching wins; he had TK as of late January. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the ’96 Olympics in Barcelona and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in ’96.
It may seem like sacrilege to partisans of MJ and Dr. J, but there may have been no player in NBA history who was more consistently acrobatic and just plain amazing than The Human Highlight Film.
From the moment Wilkins entered the NBA, he was a dunking, soaring, gravity-defying phenomenon whose coiled 6-7 body was capable of any kind of slam imaginable. Wilkins was able to glide around -- or even over -- hapless defenders to the hoop. He was also able to burst through them and finish with power and gusto.
He remains the Hawks’ all-time leading scorer and was a nine-time All-Star. ’Nique won a pair of NBA Slam Dunk titles during his career and led the NBA in scoring in ’85-86. Though his Hawks never advanced past the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Wilkins was still considered one of the NBA’s elite players and surely one of the most exciting on-court performers of all time.