Connie Hawkins was already something of a legend by the time he came to the Lakers toward the end of his professional basketball career -– in fact, he had reached legendary status before he ever played in the NBA.
Hawkins was slam-dunking the ball on Brooklyn playgrounds by age 11, and word of his gravity-defying feats spread quickly. He was a Parade Magazine high school All American in 1960 but never got to play in college after being linked to a points-shaving scandal before his freshman season at Iowa (he was never arrested, indicted or directly implicated, according to NBA.com).
Banned from the NBA for the same reason, Hawkins spent the better part of the next decade with the Harlem Globetrotters and in the ABL and ABA. He finally was allowed to bring his basketball skills, flamboyant style, unusually large hands and Fu Manchu moustache to the NBA at age 27 as a member of the expansion Phoenix Suns.
By the time he was traded to the Lakers for Keith Erickson and a second-round draft pick early in the 1973-74 season, the 6-foot-8 forward was past his prime. Still, he put up solid numbers (despite being hampered by injuries much of the 1974-75 season), averaging 11.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists in 114 games over two seasons.
Hawkins was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Feb. 12, 2011