Dominique’s Greatest Moments - 7

Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, as you may have heard. We here at Hawks.com cannot get enough of Nique, and are constantly scouring the internet for video of his days as the Human Highlight Film. On December 1st, the Hawks will be honoring Dominique as part of Hardwood Classic Nights, with the team wearing throwback uniforms representing the 1986 season.

To get ready for the festivities, Hawks.com is counting down the 21 greatest moments of Wilkins' career. Check back daily as we update the countdown every weekday leading up to the Dec. 1 match-up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

February 6, 1988: Wilkins loses Slam Dunk Contest to Michael Jordan.

It might seem strange to view a dunk contest in which he was defeated as one of the top moments of Dominique's career, but we list it here for a couple of reasons. Number one, the 1988 dunk contest was one of the seminal events in league history, and probably one of the two or three most memorable moments in the history of All-Star Weekend. And number two, history seems to show that the contest is most memorable for Nique losing than Jordan winning.

Not to put down today's Rising Stars Challenge, which is limited to first- and second-year players, but the dunk contests of the 1980s featured the game's top stars at a time when the slam dunk was still something of a novelty. In 1988, Jordan and Wilkins faced off in the finals of the contest for the only time in their careers.

Both participants received 50s for their first dunks. Wilkins received another perfect score on his second butt Jordan got only a 47 for a sideways rock-the-cradle. Nique's third dunk was equally spectacular to his first two, a powerhouse two-handed windmill, yet he scored only a 45. Needing at least a 48, Jordan went to his bread-and-butter, the free-throw line jam, for a 50 and the win.

Ask any Hawks fan about that day, and they will all agree with the sentiments below. But win or lose, the battle between Nique and Jordan in 1988 put them both on the map as the best dunkers in the NBA, and perhaps of all time.

There are some great videos of the battle out on the web, but to get your appetite whet, here is a feature TNT did on it from a few years back.

Steve Holman
Voice of the Hawks
"At the time of the 1988 slam dunk contest, Nique was at the peak of his game. It was the season that would lead to the great playoff series with the Celtics, and that famous game 7 showdown with Larry Bird. This time it was a showdown with Michael Jordan. It really put the SHOW in Showdown. Nique was the Human Highlight Film, and at this point the Dunk contest was still a very big deal to the players. Unfortunately, this one took place in Chicago. Everyone who was there, and everyone who watched it on TV to this day feels that Nique won it hands down, but alas Michael was at home, and got the crowd and the home cookin' to go with it. It is still considered the best of the best of the Dunk Contests. If you ever run into our VP of Basketball, just ask him about the 88 Dunk Contest and then look out!"

Tree Rollins
teammate of Nique's from 1982-88
"I was down on the court for the event, and we both knew beforehand, he wasn't going to win it. The contest being in Chicago, Jordan being in front of his hometown fans, it just wasn't going to happen.

As usual, he brought it. I will never forget the look in his eyes, basically saying, "What else can I do?". Those are the times as an athlete where you feel like the odds are stacked against you, but you still try to win. He was really trying to win that night, but it just wasn't going to happen - nothing against Jordan, who had great dunks that night too.

The thing I always tell kids is, when Jordan or other guys like that dunked, it was like, "boom". But when Dominique dunked, it was like, "BOOM!" It was just so hard and powerful, it gave you goosebumps."