“The Hawk” flies no more.
Connie Hawkins died Friday, the Phoenix Suns announced in a statement and his family confirmed to The Associated Press. The New York City basketball legend-turned-pro basketball great was 75 years old.
“The Hawk’ revolutionized the game and remains to this day an icon of the sport and one of basketball’s great innovators,” the Suns’ statement reads. “His unique combination of size, grace and athleticism was well ahead of its time and his signature style of play is now a hallmark of the modern game.”
Hawkins was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942 and became a playground legend during the city’s days as a basketball mecca in the 1950s and 60s.
He briefly attended the University of Iowa but was dismissed from the school after his freshman year due to his “questionable connection to “the central figure in a point-shaving scandal (back in NYC),” according to The Arizona Republic’s Jeff Zillgitt. No other college would accept him, and the NBA banned him in 1966 from the league for several years.
Nevertheless, “The Hawks” initially took his talents to the American Basketball League and Harlem Globetrotters in 1967, then to the fledgling ABA, where he won a scoring title, MVP honors and a championship in his first season with the Pittsburgh Pipers.
A Life Magazine story exonerated Hawkins in 1969, the same year he settled a lawsuit against the NBA for more than $1 million, and the league assigned the then 27-year-old to the Suns, with which he played four seasons between 1969 and 1973, earning first-team All-NBA honors and All-Star honors in each campaign.
Hawkins subsequently played two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Atlanta Hawks before retiring in 1975.
The Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Hawkins into its ranks in 1992.
Suns legend Steve Nash led a chorus of praise for Hawkins from around the NBA, following his death. Others soon followed suit.
Thumbnail photo via YouTube/jaranarm