Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins thinks it’d be easy to play in this era: ‘You couldn’t touch me’
Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins isn’t a fan of comparing eras, instead letting each shine due to its own merits and accomplishments, along with the players — but the dunk icon still thinks he could dominate in today’s game.
The Hall of Famer averaged 24.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks over an illustrious 15-year NBA career and sits 13th all-time on the NBA’s scoring list.
“Ain’t no ‘think’ about it! It’d be easy [to play in this era] because you couldn’t touch me,” Wilkins told Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. “I don’t think people realize how good some of those players were in my era. You look at some of the scoring averages for teams, a lot of those teams were putting up 110, 112, 115 points a night!”
The ’80s are often underrated, as the league was undergoing a massive makeover with the inclusion of the 3-point line, the arrival of international players, and breaking through the mold of no-blood, no-foul basketball.
Wilkins, who is mostly remembered for his thunderous dunks, also feels underrated — loyal to the old style of one-team, one-star, which unfortunately deprived him of an NBA title.
“I definitely feel underrated. There’s no question about it,” said Wilkins. “I don’t think a lot of people realize what I did. And I didn’t play with another superstar. I basically carried my team for 12 years, and those 12 years were in the East at a time when the East was brutal in terms of talent and teams that were off the charts. I think a lot of times, when you’re an athlete and a high-flyer, you get categorized [as just a dunker]. But I tell people, ‘It’s very, very difficult to score over 26,000 points just off dunks.’ I was a creative scorer – inside, outside, post-up, off the dribble and even shot the three, only if it was necessary. My thing was running the fast-break and attacking you all the time. I played at one speed and that speed was all-out.
I think a lot of people focus on my dunks. And while I may have dunked twice a game, people look at the way I dunked and think I dunked every single point, but that’s not true. A guy like LeBron James dunks, but it’s just a tool he uses to intimidate opponents and motivate the crowd. But his game is so much more lethal than that, so much bigger than that.”
‘Nique was a complete player, with the ability to burn guys from mid-range and finish tough plays at the rim. A lean, mean, high-scoring machine at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, Wilkins still makes the cut as the NBA’s prototypical small forward, with enough speed and athletic ability to compete in today’s game and dominate with his skill.