Hall of Fame forward Connie Hawkins died at 75 years old on Friday, according to a report from NBC 12 News Arizona.
Banned from the NBA after being tied to a college basketball gambling scandal, Hawkins played two seasons in the ABA -- winning the league's inaugural championship and MVP trophies with the Pittsburgh Pipers in 1968 -- before joining the NBA in 1969. "The Hawk" went on to earn All-NBA First Team honors as a 27-year-old rookie with the Suns, averaging 24.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest.
The Suns released the following statement Saturday:
"’The Hawk’ revolutionized the game and remains to this day an icon of the sport and one of basketball’s great innovators. His unique combination of size, grace and athleticism was well ahead of its time and his signature style of play is now a hallmark of the modern game.
A flip of the coin changed the Suns’ fortunes and he helped put Phoenix on the map as the city’s first professional sports superstar. Rightfully, he became the first Suns player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and his No. 42 hangs in the rafters at Talking Stick Resort Arena as part of our Ring of Honor.
Connie’s passion for the game was only matched by his desire to give back to the Phoenix community, a role which he played proudly as a Suns community ambassador, spreading warmth and kindness to everyone he encountered. We will miss Hawk dearly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends as we mourn the passing of a true Suns legend.”
Hawkins earned four consecutive All-Star honors with the Suns before being traded to the Lakers in the middle of the 1973-74 campaign. He finished his career with the Hawks in 1975-76.
The former 6-8 forward was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, a testament to his accomplishments and skill despite not being seen on the professional stage for much of his prime. His biography, Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story, captures his life from childhood through his ultimate triumph in proving his innocence in order to play in the NBA.