by DeMarco Williams / @demarcowill
When Dominique Wilkins gets to the Starbucks for our 10 a.m. chat, he looks pretty tired. The 2006 Hall of Famer inductee does have a day job, ya know? As a TV analyst with the Atlanta Hawks, the always-traveling Wilkins probably gets his personal mail sent to the airport. The day before the interview he was in San Antonio. Three nights after it, he’s scheduled to be in Philly.
But on this day before the NCAA Title game, ‘Nique is in the A, fighting off exhaustion because he and the All State NABC Good Works Team have partnered for a basketball clinic where they’ll work with 75 local Special Olympics athletes in various drills and activities. And to Wilkins’ credit, when he speaks on that important subject, his basketball legacy or the Hawks’ season, the nine-time All-Star is wide awake.
SLAM: Tell us a little bit about All State and the Special Olympics. Why are you involved in this?
Dominique Wilkins: Well, any time I can get involved in something that is community-based and giving back, I’m always up for that. And what All State is doing is really kind of teaming up with some of these college players who also have gotten awards for what they do in their communities. This All State team that they’ve put together has been very positive, and then when you add that you’re working with Special Olympic kids, it’s just a right fit.
SLAM: I know all this is revolving around the Final Four and whatnot. When you were at Georgia, you guys didn’t make the Tournament. Do you feel like that is a part of life you kind of missed out on?
DW: Not really. But, you know, it’s always great to be a part of college sports. If you’re fortunate to get to the Final Four—which they went to the Final Four the year after I left—it is great for our school’s history. But just being a part of college basketball period is a blessing in itself, and if you happen to get further in the NCAA Tournaments, it’s great. It was a great experience for me. It really prepared me for the NBA.
SLAM: When you look at what is going on with UGA right now, what does coach Mark Fox need to do to change the culture?
DW: Gotta get players. It’s as simple as that. They haven’t been able to get a lot of the players here in Georgia to stay in school in Georgia. A lot of them go outside of the state. But it would be great if they could get some of those kids to go to school at the university.
SLAM: You see the Hawks more than most people with your coverage. What do you think about this transitioning season? How would you rate them this year?
DW: I think very well, very good. No one ever expected us to be this far. As a matter of fact, they didn’t have us in the Playoffs. So, to be at this point of the season is a blessing for us. But it shows you how good a job Coach [Larry] Drew has done, you know, with the guys he had, you know, getting rid of some, your main pieces, particularly Joe Johnson. So, [the organization] replaced him with shooters and guys who really bought into his system.
SLAM: What’s the toughest part about the broadcasting world?
DW: Really, that’s the easiest job I’ve ever had—broadcasting. I mean, because basically you’re commentating, you’re articulating stuff you already know. Stuff you’ve been a part of your whole life. You are just putting it in more of a structured form. It has been really pretty easy.
SLAM: Of course, we just got word that Bernard King and Gary Payton will be joining you in the Hall.
DW: And well deserved. Bernard King should have been in years ago, probably six, seven years ago he should have been in the Hall of Fame. The fact that he is in there now is great. Never too late for the Hall of Fame, believe me. Gary Payton, everybody knew was going to be a Hall of Fame player. That’s no secret. So, it’s not a surprise. I really want to give a congratulation to both of those guys, particularly Bernard King, because of all the time he had to wait to get in, and it is well deserved.
SLAM: Is there anything that we can do to make the Dunk Contest relevant again?
DW: Well, you’ve got to get the best players in it. Simple as that. You got to get the big names. The big names get in it, you wouldn’t be able to sell a ticket because it would be sold out.
SLAM: Why are the bigger names avoiding it?
DW: That’s a good question. I wish I could tell you. Guys, for one reason or another, just don’t want to get in anymore. I mean, they feel like it’s a waste of their time, or whatever they want to call it. They just don’t want to do it anymore.
SLAM: You weren’t scared of Michael Jordan or Larry Nance or…
DW: A lot of these guys don’t want to know who the best is. That’s the simple fact on it.
SLAM: Of course, your game goes well beyond the dunking highlights and all that. What aspect of it do you wish more people would recognize?
DW: My all-around game. It’s a funny thing because, even when I went in the Hall of Fame, they announced me as a two-time winner of the slam dunk contest. I tell people all the time I scored over 26,000 points in this League and I didn’t get them all on dunks. I found creative ways to score. People didn’t just let you walk around and land a dunk. I had games where I had 40-plus points and never got a dunk in the game. I just want people to recognize that I had a complete game, an all-around game. But when you’re a high flyer…
SLAM: …That’s all they see.
DW: You look at LeBron, when you see highlights, the only one you see of LeBron is dunk, dunk, dunk, dunk. LeBron does a whole lot more than that. And they know that. Sometimes you like to see him passing or see him finger roll or something else different than just dunking. But unfortunately, when you’re a high flyer, that’s what they show.
SLAM: Beyond LeBron and Kobe, who excites you the most right now?
DW: Carmelo [Anthony]. Carmelo is an unbelievable player. [Dwyane] Wade. [Kevin] Durant. You know, a lot of young guys. That young kid [Damian] Lillard, out in Portland. He’s going to be something. There are a lot of guys like that. One of the guys who hasn’t played all year is Derrick Rose. I love the way he plays.