Former Phoenix Suns and Harlem Globetrotters star Connie Hawkins has passed away at age 75. Hawkins, nicknamed “The Hawk,” was an NBA Hall of Famer who had a troubled start to his career but rose to become a Suns legend. Hawkins death was announced yesterday by the Phoenix Suns, and whilst no cause of death has been announced, Hawkins was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007. Hawkins has reportedly been frail and in poor health for some time.
As reported by the official NBA website, former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, said that the Suns “had lost a legend” as he praised Hawkins contribution to the Phoenix franchise
“[Connie Hawkins was] a player I had a very deep affection for who kind of put us on the map.
“[Hawkins was] one of the first players to play above the rim, and kind of set the tone for those who followed, Julius Erving in particular, in terms of charisma on the court and the ability to do things on the court.”
Hawkins was famed for his ability to soar in the air, at times seeming to defy the laws of gravity. Announcing his death, the Phoenix Suns described Hawkins as the man who revolutionized basketball, turning it into the game it is today.
“‘The Hawk’ revolutionized the game and remains to this day an icon of the sport and one of basketball’s great innovators.
“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 the first Suns player to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, a fact that is all the more remarkable given that Hawkins’ basketball career was almost over before it began.
As reported by ESPN, Hawkins was kept at arm’s length by the league because of a points shaving scandal in 1961 when Hawkins was a freshman at Iowa. Hawkins was held in a hotel room by detectives for 14 days while the betting scandal was investigated. Whilst Hawkins was never arrested or charged, he was expelled from Iowa and was unable to land a scholarship at another college.
The scandal meant that Hawkins went undrafted by the NBA before the league formally barred him in 1966. Hawkins spent three years with the Harlem Globetrotters and played in the minor leagues before eventually suing the NBA for banning him. Hawkins won his case and $1.25 million in damages and the NBA lifted his ban.
As a result of the ban, Hawkins was 27-years-old when he made his NBA debut. Hawkins retired from professional basketball in 1976 having lost a huge chunk of his career before it even started.
[Featured Image by Robert Kradin/AP Images]