On a bright sunny day in Brooklyn New York less than a dozen people turned out to celebrate the life and legacy of NBA Hall of Famer, Connie Hawkins a stark contrast to a few months ago, in Brooklyn, when a crowd, in a torrential rainstorm, paid tribute to the late Biggie Smalls on the naming of a street in his honor. A Brooklyn politician who was scheduled to speak did not show up but that didn’t phase Isaiah Hawkins (brother of Connie Hawkins), Mel Davis (NY Knicks), Ted Gustus, Coach Ruth Lovelace (Boys & Girls High School), Ray Haskins (LIU, Alexander Hamilton High School) and Judith Brown (sister of ABA Great Roger Brown) who all stood outside Barclay’s Center fielding questions with only three media outlets, of which we were included.
There is a lesson here. It wasn’t that long ago when the name Connie Hawkins aka “The Hawk” soared like the predatory bird he was named after. He was a dazzling vision on New York playgrounds before he caught the eye of the NBA and eventually soared to such heights that he earned a spot in the Hall of Fame. When he passed in power in 2017 he was 75. Everyone acknowledged that he is a legend.
Born in 1942 he called Brooklyn home and by the age of 11, his dunk ruled the asphalt playgrounds across the city.
“One of the first players to play above the rim,” Isaiah Hawkins brother of Connie Hawkins said, “ he laid the groundwork for those that followed like Julius Erving.”
He was known for blowing by defenders gripping the ball in one hand,
and making sure his slam was amplified. “They say, on the court, the Hawk, my uncle, seemed to defy gravity,” added Isaiah Hawkins, the nephew of Connie Hawkins.
The Hawk left big shoes to fill. He’s credited with revolutionizing the game and toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters. Later he played two seasons in the ABA and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1968, helping the Pittsburgh Pipers to a title.
He was 27 when he started playing in the NBA due to a college point-shaving scandal in New York City of which, Hawkins claimed he was innocent. In 1961, the then-commissioner J. Walter Kennedy lifted the ban. “Once he became an NBA player, “ added Isaiah Hawkins, “he never looked back. People would ask him if he was bitter but he told them all the same, that he was glad to play.”
The Hawk also played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks before retiring in 1976.
To keep his legacy alive the NBA, ABA, Pittsburgh Pipers, Harlem Globetrotters, the Hawkins family, Boys and Girls High School, CC4Change Sports, Council Member Robert Cornegy and the community will host three events in Brooklyn, in the fall of 2019, to honor the life, legacy, and contributions. The three events include the renaming of the St. Andrew’s playground basketball courts in his honor, an art show lead by curator Andrew Nichols along with a community barbecue which will be held at Hawkins Alma mater Boys & Girls High School.
There is also a red carpet Gala event being planned that will be held at the Brooklyn Museum with the list of speakers still being firmed up but to date include
Joe Newman, co-owner of the ABA and Dennis Page, owner of Slam magazine.
Standing proudly in front of Brooklyn’s Barclay Center the assembled recognized that the lack of attendance was, in part, their fault.
“We blame the kids for not knowing the history, “ says PSAL Brooklyn Commissioner Ted Gustus,” but it’s not the kids. It’s us. It’s our job to educate our kids about our Black sports legends. It rests on us. ”
To learn more go to www.community4change.org.