Jacques Dominique Wilkins was my first basketball hero. Grant Hill is my all-time favorite, and I modeled my game after Mully, but Nique was my first real “How did he do THAT!!!!!” hero on the court. While every other kid had a Magic, Bird, or MJ shirt or jersey, I looked EVERYWHERE in Dallas for anything Dominique or Hawks-related. He was underground, dirty, raw, and the definition of”get out the way” before Luda. For those that are too young to know, sit back and ride…
This is what Dominique did best. He dunked, on any and everyone in his path. Like God created the world in 6 days, Nique created the windmill, and it was almost as epic, at least to a 10-year-old. But in 1986, Nique did more. He hit jumpers. He hit free throws. He hit three-pointers (not many but a few), and he used that ugly shot to score his way to the scoring title. That year, he averaged 30.3 points per game (I didn’t even have to look that up), beating out Adrian Dantley, Alex English, and Larry Bird, while also grabbing 8 boards a game. Do that now and you have the greatest player of all-time (Lebron?). But remember, this was an era unlike any other, and every team seemed to have a great player.
His epic year resulted in a first-round sweep of the Pistons before running into the Bird-led Celtics. Even though Wilkins averaged “only” 28.6 points, the Hawks fell to the eventual Champions in 5 games. And so you know this relates to sneaks, he did it in these:
Brooks. The running company. Yeah, same ones. In the 1980’s, EVERYONE produced basketball shoes, and really, they were all decent to good performers. I had Brooks instead of Air Jordans (eventually I had J’s too), not because I had to, but because I wanted too. Nique wore them, and he jumped out the gym, so I should be able to, right? What kid then, or even today, doesn’t buy Lebrons, or Kobe’s, or Converse Weapons, and think “I will play like my hero”. Although later Nique was the face of Reebok Pump Omni, old-heads will always remember his running company days.
Much like Dominique followed his own path by wearing a running company, I followed my own path by worshiping his game. In the long run, Jordan was greater, Bird was better, and he never won a title. But to a 10-year-old boy 4 states away, there was no one who flew as high.