Jacques Dominique Wilkins (born January 12, 1960) is an American former professional basketball player. Wilkins was a nine-time NBA All-Star and is widely viewed as one of the best dunkers in NBA history, earning the nickname "the Human Highlight Film". In 2006, Wilkins was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In addition to his 11 seasons with the Hawks, Wilkins had short stints with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Boston Celtics, Panathinaikos Athens (a professional team in Greece's top-tier level Greek Basket League, with whom he won his first titles, the FIBA European League and the Greek Cup), Fortitudo Bologna (a professional team in Italy's top-tier level LBA), the San Antonio Spurs, and the Orlando Magic before he retired in 1999.
Early life and college
Wilkins was born in Paris while his father was stationed there as an airman in the U.S. Air Force. Wilkins' family then moved to Dallas and Baltimore before settling in Washington, North Carolina, where he attended Washington High School. He was the back-to-back MVP for the team's consecutive Class 3-A State Championships (1978–1979). Wilkins was in the "Faces in the Crowd" section of Sports Illustrated while in high school for a performance in a game vs. a higher classification school in which he scored 48 points, had 27 rebounds, 9 dunks, and 8 blocks. Wilkins then starred in the McDonald's All-American Game, The Capital Classic, The Kentucky Derby Festival Classic, and The Dapper Dan Classic All-Star Games. He had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the McDonald's, 26 points in the Capital, and 22 points in the Derby Classic. He entered the University of Georgia in 1979 with an established reputation as an exciting player. Wilkins averaged 21.6 points a game over his career and was named SEC Men's Basketball Player of the Year in 1981. He left college after his junior year.
Wilkins was selected third overall (behind James Worthy and Terry Cummings) by the Utah Jazz in the 1982 NBA draft. However, Wilkins was not willing to play in Utah. At the same time, the Jazz were reeling from cash flow problems. As a result, the Jazz traded Wilkins to the Atlanta Hawks several months after the draft for John Drew, Freeman Williams and $1 million in cash. Despite Wilkins's reluctance to play in Utah, the trade is now considered among the most lopsided deals in NBA history, as Drew and Williams would play a combined four seasons for the Jazz.
Wilkins averaged more than 25 points per game for ten consecutive seasons, and captured a scoring title in 1985–86 with an average of 30.3 points per game.
Wilkins was instrumental in the Hawks' prominence in the 1980s, when the club recorded four consecutive 50-win seasons during the decade. As Wilkins entered his thirties and the Hawks needed more of an all-around contribution from their star, Wilkins averaged 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists during the 1990–91 season.
Wilkins' nickname was "The Human Highlight Film" for his athletic ability and highlight reel dunks. His trademark dunk was a powerful one- or two-handed windmill dunks he used to capture the slam dunk contest titles in 1985 and 1990. As a basketball player, he was known as an acrobatic scorer, somewhat of a gunner, though an outstanding finisher and one of the greatest dunkers in NBA history.
His #21 jersey was retired by the Hawks on January 13, 2001. He is one of five players whose jerseys have been retired by the Hawks.
Early NBA years
Wilkins notched his first Slam-Dunk Championship at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis during the 1984–85 season. He went on to finish the season with a 27.4 scoring average, good for sixth in the NBA. He ranked second on the Hawks in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and steals (135). For the first of two straight seasons, he led the NBA in field-goal attempts, with 1,891. After going 0-for-11 from the three-point line the previous season, Wilkins made 25 of 81 three-point shots in 1984–85. He also shot better than 80 percent from the free throw line for the first of 10 consecutive seasons. Despite Wilkins's efforts, Atlanta finished 34–48 and failed to reach the playoffs.
Wilkins exploded into the NBA's elite circle in 1985–86, winning the league scoring title with an average of 30.3 points per game. He was an NBA All-Star for the first time and was voted to the All-NBA First Team at the end of the season. He failed in his bid to repeat as NBA Slam-Dunk champion, his competition coming from an unlikely source. The Hawks had signed 5-foot-7 Anthony "Spud" Webb as a free agent prior to the season, and Webb dazzled the All-Star Saturday crowd in Dallas by soaring more than 4 feet (1.2 m) to the basket on each of his dunk attempts. Atlanta turned its fortunes around in dramatic fashion, winning 16 more games in the 1985–86 season to finish 50–32 for the year. Wilkins scored 57 points in one game and ranked among the Hawks' leaders in rebounding (7.9 rpg), steals (138), and free-throw percentage (.818). Atlanta beat the Detroit Pistons in four games in the first round of the playoffs, but the Hawks could not get past the eventual NBA-champion Boston Celtics, losing four games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Wilkins averaged 28.6 points in the nine playoff games.
After playing as a reserve the previous year, Wilkins became the first Atlanta Hawks player to start in an NBA All-Star Game since Eddie Johnson in 1981. Wilkins finished the year second in the league in scoring (29.0 ppg) to Michael Jordan's 37.1 points per game. He scored the 10,000th point of his career against the Chicago Bulls on April 16 and was named to the All-NBA Second Team at the season's end. Atlanta went into the season with high expectations after a 50–32 mark the previous year, and the Hawks totaled a franchise-record 57 victories. Doc Rivers, Kevin Willis, Tree Rollins, and Mike McGee contributed as the club made it through the first round of the NBA playoffs before losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Detroit Pistons. Wilkins averaged 26.8 points during the postseason, the second of six straight playoffs in which he would average at least 20 points.
In the 1987–88 season, Wilkins posted the highest scoring average of his career and finished second to Jordan in the NBA scoring race. He averaged 30.7 points for the Hawks, but Jordan bested him at 35.0. Jordan also defeated Wilkins for the Slam Dunk Championship at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago. Wilkins earned a berth on the All-NBA Second Team and became the first Hawks player to be named NBA Player of the Week three times in a season. In his third straight All-Star Game appearance, Wilkins scored 29 points on 12-of-22 shooting, leading the East squad to a 138–133 victory.
Atlanta (50–32) won at least 50 games for the third straight season and advanced to the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games. In Game 7 on May 22, Wilkins and Larry Bird carried their respective teams to a thrilling finish, trading bucket for bucket in the fourth quarter until Boston won with a 118–116 victory. Wilkins finished with 47 points and Bird had 34-with 20 of his points tallied in the fourth quarter. "The basket was like a well," remembered Wilkins. "I couldn’t miss. He couldn’t miss. And it went down to the last shot of the game. Who was going to make the last shot? That's the greatest game I’ve ever played in or seen played. It was two guys who just did not want to lose."
During the 1989 season with the Hawks, Wilkins's scoring average dropped slightly to 26.2, good for seventh in the league, but he was an All-Star for the fourth straight year. He shot a career-best .844 from the free-throw line and ranked second on the Hawks with 117 steals. Basketball writers selected him to the All-NBA Third Team at season's end. The Hawks added Reggie Theus and Moses Malone to the team in 1988–89. Malone averaged 20.2 points and finished fourth in the league with his 11.8 rebounding average. Theus averaged 15.8 points. Without 7-foot (2.1 m) Kevin Willis, however, who missed the entire season with a fractured left foot, Atlanta lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Wilkins averaged 27.2 points in the playoffs.
Wilkins returned to dunking prominence in 1989–90 by edging out the Sacramento Kings’ Kenny Smith for his second NBA Slam-Dunk championship. He averaged 26.7 points to finish fifth in the NBA scoring race. He led the Hawks in steals for the first time since 1985–86, finishing with 126. His .484 field-goal percentage was the best since his rookie season, and for the sixth straight year he did not foul out of a game. Nonetheless, Atlanta struggled to a 41–41 record in Mike Fratello's last season as head coach, failing to make the playoffs for only the second time in Wilkins' career.
Wilkins averaged a career-high 9.0 rebounds in 1990–91, leading the Hawks in that category for the first time in his nine NBA seasons. He also led the team in scoring for the eighth straight year, finishing at 25.9 points per game—seventh best in the NBA. He registered a career-high 265 assists while developing a three-point shot he would use more and more in the later stages of his career. He hit 85-of-249 from long range for a .341 percentage, by far his most prolific three-point numbers to date. Wilkins made his sixth All-Star Game appearance, scoring 12 points in the East's 116–114 victory over the West. He was selected to the All-NBA Second Team for the third time in his career. Atlanta returned to the playoffs after a year's absence, drawing the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons in the first round. The Hawks pushed the Pistons to a fifth game, but Detroit routed Atlanta, 113–81, in Game 5. Wilkins averaged 20.8 points in the five games, but shot .372 from the field and .133 from three-point range.
In the 1991–92 season, Wilkins' ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 28, 1992. He underwent surgery on January 30. He also scored the 20,000th point of his career, becoming only the 16th player at the time to reach that plateau. On the day of the injury, Wilkins was named a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star Team. His 28.1 scoring average was his highest in five years, and the 52 points he scored in a double-overtime game on December 7 against the New York Knicks were the most by an NBA player that season.
The following season, Wilkins would recover from his injury and eventually win the NBA Comeback Player of the Year award. He scored an average of 27.7 points per game in the first month of the season. On December 8, he set an NBA record of free throws made in a game without a miss, hitting 23 free throws against the Chicago Bulls. He then suffered a setback when he fractured the ring finger on his right hand on December 15, sitting out the next 11 games. He returned to rack up 29.4 points per game on .487 shooting in January, then added 31.5 points per game on .519 shooting in February. By the end of the season, his scoring average was up to 29.9, second in the league behind Michael Jordan's 32.6. When Wilkins scored his 31st point in a February 2 game against the Seattle SuperSonics, he broke Bob Pettit's franchise scoring record of 20,880 points. He had developed into a full-fledged three-point threat, hitting 120 of 316 attempts from long range to shatter his previous career bests. He was later selected to the All-NBA Second Team. The Chicago Bulls swept the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs 3–0.
Los Angeles Clippers and Boston
Wilkins showed no signs of fading in his 12th NBA season, even after a tumultuous midseason trade. After 11½ years with the Atlanta Hawks, Wilkins was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers on February 24 in exchange for Danny Manning. This is still the only time in NBA history a team in first place in their conference traded its leading scorer after the All-Star break. Prior to the trade Wilkins averaged 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists for Atlanta, leading the club to a 36–16 record. At midseason he appeared in his eighth NBA All-Star Game. Hawks management and new coach Lenny Wilkens claimed Manning and his skills would help the team more during the stretch run. However, many believed that money was the primary reason the Hawks made the trade. Wilkins' contract expired at the end of the season, and the Hawks may not have been willing to commit a new long-term contract to a player who was almost 35 years old.
The top-seeded Hawks lost in the conference semifinals to the Indiana Pacers. Wilkins left Atlanta as the team's all-time leading scorer with 23,292 points. In his final 25 games of the season Wilkins averaged 29.1 points and 7.0 rebounds. On March 25 he returned to Atlanta in a Clippers uniform and tallied 36 points and 10 rebounds against his former team. Overall, Wilkins' 26.0 scoring average ranked fourth in the NBA. He concluded the season with 24,019 career points, placing ninth on the NBA's all-time list. Wilkins became a free agent after the 1993–94 season and signed with the Boston Celtics. Shortly after the signing, he helped Dream Team II to a gold medal at the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.
Panathinaikos: EuroLeague champion
Unhappy with his role on a rebuilding Celtics team, in August 1995, Wilkins signed a two-year contract worth US$7 million with Panathinaikos of the Greek League that meant a US$3.5 million net sum per year in salary. The club further provided him with a four-story, marbled villa of his choosing, a maid, two cars, and even paid his Greek taxes for him.
Playing on a roster alongside Stojko Vranković, Panagiotis Giannakis, Fragiskos Alvertis and Nikos Oikonomou, thirty-five-year-old Wilkins started off the season sluggishly, frequently getting targeted by the team's disciplinarian, defensively-minded head coach Božidar Maljković, even getting fined US$50,000 by the club for making too many personal trips back to the United States during the season, and complaining about being treated "like a dog" by coach Maljković.
However, Wilkins soon managed to adapt and thrive in the European game, averaging 20.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, in 33.2 minutes per game, in 17 games played for Panathinaikos in the 1995–96 season of the EuroLeague, and helping them win the title of the EuroLeague Final Four of 1996. He particularly excelled in key EuroLeague contests such as the deciding game 3 of the EuroLeague quarterfinals best-of-3 series, versus Treviso, where he recorded 26 points and 7 rebounds, as Panathinaikos eked out a hard-fought 64–65 victory on the road, to progress to the EuroLeague Final Four. During the 1996 EuroLeague Final Four, that was held in his birthplace of Paris, Wilkins had 35 points and 8 rebounds in the semifinal against CSKA, and a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Barcelona in the final. His performances earned him the Final Four MVP award. He also won the Greek Cup with Panathinaikos, and was named the MVP of the Cup Final. However, he failed to win the national championship of the Greek League 1995–96 season, as his team, Panathinaikos, lost the Greek League Finals to their arch-rivals, Olympiacos, 3 games to 2. In the Greek League, he averaged 21.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists and 32.0 minutes per game in 30 games played.
San Antonio, Bologna and Orlando
He returned to the NBA before the 1996–97 season, signing a contract as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs, to solidify their bench scoring. Wilkins led the team with an average of 18.2 points per game in 1996–97. He would be the last Spur to wear #21 before Tim Duncan.
However, after one season, Wilkins once again went overseas, this time signing a contract with Teamsystem Bologna of the Italian League, for the 1997–98 season. With Bologna, he averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, in 33.5 minutes per game, in 34 games played in the Italian League. With Bologna, he also averaged 17.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, in 33.8 minutes per game, in 20 games played in the FIBA EuroLeague 1997–98 season. Wilkins returned to play his last season in the NBA, during the 1998–99 campaign, alongside his brother Gerald Wilkins, with the Orlando Magic. In 27 games, he averaged 5.0 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Slam dunk contests
Wilkins participated in five slam dunk contests, winning two. His first was in 1984, in Denver. Wilkins finished third, behind Larry Nance and Julius Erving. In 1985, in Indianapolis, he beat Michael Jordan in the finals. In Dallas in 1986, a Jordan-Wilkins rematch was put on hold, since Jordan was injured. Wilkins reached the finals where he was defeated by his 5'7" teammate, Spud Webb.
The 1988 Slam Dunk Contest featured a rematch between Wilkins and Jordan. Jordan won in the final, beating Wilkins by two points. Wilkins' first two dunks of the finals earned scores of 50 from judges. On his third and final attempt, Wilkins' completed a thunderous windmill dunk from the left side. Soaring high above the floor, Wilkins' head nearly hit the rim. Wilkins received a standing ovation from players and fans in attendance, but was awarded a low score of 45. The judges opened the door for Jordan to win the Chicago-based event with a score of only 48. Jordan closed out the event with 50-point dunk, taking perhaps the contest's most controversial crown.
In 1990 Wilkins made his final appearance in the Slam Dunk Contest, going up against new promising stars such as Kenny Smith, Scottie Pippen and Kenny Walker (the 1989 champion). He defeated Kenny Smith of the Sacramento Kings in the final round.
Since 2004, Wilkins has served as the Hawks' Vice President of Basketball. He works in a variety of management functions within the franchise's basketball and business areas. Wilkins is responsible for advising the Hawks's senior management team on basketball-related issues and is a goodwill ambassador for the community. Wilkins also serves as a color analyst for Hawks games on FSN South, pairing with long-time play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.
In 2009, Wilkins participated in the McDonald's All-Star Celebrity Game during NBA All-Star Weekend and in the 2009 NBA Asia Challenge against a team of Philippine Basketball Association All-Stars. He led all scorers with 28 points in 20 minutes of play.
In 2010, Wilkins signed an agreement to partner with fitness company 24 Hour Fitness to develop the Dominique Wilkins Basketball Academy. The academy conducted private training, camps, and clinics at the 24 Hour facility in Pearl City, Hawaii. In late 2010, Wilkins starred with Verne Troyer in the TitleMax "short on cash?" television commercial campaign.
According to ESPN, Wilkins was attacked by former NBA referee Rashan Michel after a 2011 Hawks–Magic game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Michel claimed that Wilkins owed him money for a suit provided to Wilkins. Afterward, according to the police, Michel attacked Wilkins by punching him in the chest.
Recently Wilkins released the first of his private label wines under the Wilkins Private Reserve label. He took an interest in fine wines while playing professionally in Italy at the end of his career and owning a private label was one of his long-term goals.
In March 2014, Wilkins, whose father and grandfather both died of diabetic complications, filmed a commercial for Novo Nordisk's Victoza citing their commitment to raising awareness of diabetes in the urban community, with an emphasis on children's nutrition.
NBA career statistics
|†||Denotes season in which Wilkins won a EuroLeague championship|
Awards and achievements
- 1985–86 NBA Scoring Champion (30.3 ppg)
- NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Champion: 1985, 1990.
- NBA All-Rookie Team: 1983.
- All-NBA First Team: 1986.
- All-NBA Second Team: 1987–88, 1991, 1993.
- All-NBA Third Team: 1989, 1994.
- Nine-time NBA All-Star: 1986–94.
- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2006).
- FIBA EuroLeague Champion: 1996 (now known as EuroLeague).
- Greek Cup Winner: 1996
- Italian Cup Winner: 1998
- NBA Shooting Stars champion: 2013–2015 (Team Chris Bosh, with Swin Cash).
Free throws made in a game with no misses: 23–23, vs. Chicago Bulls, December 8, 1992
- Also holds fourth (see below)
Consecutive free throws made in a game: 23, vs. Chicago Bulls, December 8, 1992
- Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant have also achieved this.
Points scored in a Game 7 of a playoff series: 47, at Boston Celtics, May 22, 1988
- Game 7 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
- The Atlanta Hawks still lost the game (and series), 118–116.
Field goal attempts, 4-game series: 114, vs. Detroit Pistons (1986)
Field goal attempts, half: 16 (1988)
Field goals made, 4-game series: 63, vs. Detroit Pistons (1986)
Field goal attempts, 4-game series: 108, vs. Indiana Pacers (1987)
- Also held the record (see above)
- List of National Basketball Association career scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career turnovers leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career free throw scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career minutes played leaders
- List of individual National Basketball Association scoring leaders by season
- List of National Basketball Association players with 50 or more points in a playoff game
- List of National Basketball Association franchise career scoring leaders
- "Dominique Wilkins Summary". NBA.com. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- "New Georgia Encyclopedia: Dominique Wilkins (b. 1960)". Georgiaencyclopedia.org. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- "Men's Basketball – All-Time Award Winners". Southeastern Conference. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 11, 2008.
- "Basketball – He Got Pushed Away".
- "NBA & ABA Career Leaders and Records for Points". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "32 year old Dominique Wilkins injures Achilles in 1992 / Averages 30 Points the following season". Ballislife.com. April 13, 2013. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
- The Inquirer Staff (August 13, 1995). "Dominique Wilkins Will Play In Greece". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- Avdić, Edin (March 19, 2015). "Kao na filmu". mondo.rs. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- Stanković, Vladimir (January 13, 2013). "Dominique Wilkins, An American From Paris". Euroleague.net. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- Thomsen, Ian (March 12, 1996). "'Easy Money' Opens Door to Hard Times in Greece for a Former NBA Star". New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
- "Wilkins Shoots Panathinaikos Past CSKA". The Moscow Times. April 11, 1996. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
- "Jacques Dominique Wilkins (Panathinaikos BSA Athens)". Fibaeurope.com. October 30, 1926. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Dominique Wilkins Career stats & achievements.
- Dominique Wilkins Teamsystem Bologna (in Italian).
- Jacques Dominique Wilkins.
- "Dominique Wilkins:VP-Basketball, Atlanta Spirit, LLC". www.nba.com. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
- Allen, Kevin (January 26, 2008). "Ovechkin, Chara dazzle in NHL All-Star prelude". USA Today. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- "T.O. pulls in another MVP trophy in wild celebrity game". Nba.com. February 14, 2009. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- "NBA Generations Defeat PBA All-Stars At Asia Challenge". NBA.com. September 11, 2009. Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- "Dominique Wilkins, ex-referee in scrap". ESPN. March 31, 2011. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "Happy Birthday, Dominique Wilkins – The Human Highlight Film". ThePostGame.com. January 12, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- "Dominique Wilkins – I'm Taking Paula Deen's Diabetes Spokesperson Gig". TMZ.com. March 27, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- "Freshman Isaiah Wilkins giving No. 2 Virginia basketball boost off the bench". WashingtonPost.com. January 21, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- Arnovitz, Kevin (March 3, 2015). "Dominique Wilkins statue unveiled". ESPN. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- Panathinaikos BSA Athens.
- Teamsystem Bologna.