Hawks Sign Kevin Willis
Hawks GM Billy Knight (left) with Kevin Willis, VP of Basketball Dominique Wilkins
and Atlanta Spirit owner Michael Gearon Jr.
Twenty-Year Veteran Center To Bring Experience, Leadership
ATLANTA (Sept. 22, 2004) -- Kevin Willis, one of the most productive and durable players to ever wear an Atlanta Hawks uniform, returns to the organization after a ten-year absence, as the fit big man will suit up for Atlanta in 2004-05, his 21st NBA season. Willis has signed a contract with the Hawks, it was announced today by General Manager Billy Knight.
"I think this is a great opportunity as my career covers two decades in the league," said Willis. "To be back with the franchise I started my career with is a wonderful thing, and I hope to do whatever I can to try and bring more excitement and positive energy to the team."
"We're excited to bring Kevin back to the Hawks," said General Manager Billy Knight. "He will be an important presence on the court as well as in the locker room, and we'll look to him especially to set an example for our younger players. His experience and leadership will be invaluable."
Second among all active NBA players in games played (behind only Karl Malone) and sixth in league history, Willis has averaged 12.3 points and 8.5 rebounds (.488 FG%, .713 FT%) in 1,390 contests (886 starts). He has played the last two campaigns in San Antonio, appearing in a total of 119 games, and last season put in 3.4 ppg and 2.0 rpg in 7.8 mpg (.467 FG%, .615 FT%). A key reserve on the Spurs' NBA championship team in 2002-03, Willis has also spent time with Miami, Golden State, Houston, Toronto and Denver.
In his first tour of duty with the Hawks, Willis posted 14.5 ppg and 10.0 rpg (.504 FG%, .695 FT%) in 724 games over 11 years. He still holds prominent positions on several Hawks franchise career lists, including ranking first in offensive and defensive rebounds, sixth in games played, scoring, field goals made and attempted, and blocked shots, while holding fifth in minutes played.
"Kevin's return reunites the past with the present with the Hawks organization," said Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta VP/Basketball and a former teammate of Willis from 1984-95. "He was a tremendous contributor to the success we enjoyed during the `80s and early `90s, and it is a credit to his hard work and excellent health that has allowed him to extend his NBA career into a third decade. Kevin is a winner, and our players will learn a lot about professionalism from him."
Atlanta's first-round pick in 1984 (11th overall), Willis had a breakout campaign in 1986-87, when he tallied 16.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg in 81 games. He missed the entire 1988-89 season due to foot surgery. His best season came in 1991-92, when he earned a spot on the All-Star team as well as the All-NBA third team, and averaged 18.3 ppg and 15.5 rpg, notching the third-highest rebound total (1,258) in 23 NBA seasons. In his last full season with the Hawks (1993-94), he put up a career-best 19.1 ppg, and ranked third in the league with 12.0 rpg, helping lead Atlanta to a 57-25 mark, the best record in the Eastern Conference.
He has appeared in 98 postseason games, with averages of 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds (.484 FG%, .692 FT%).
Willis played three seasons collegiately at Michigan State after spending his freshman year at Jackson Community College. As a junior with the Spartans, he led the Big 10 in rebounding and field goal percentage. He was born September 6, 1962 in Los Angeles, California.