The Human Highlight Film has now entered a new artistic medium. The Atlanta Hawks unveiled a new statue of Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins on Thursday, paying tribute to one of the best players of his generation and most entertaining players in the history of the sport. The statue will be placed outside of Philips Arena and continues the Hawks' efforts to deepen their roots in Atlanta and with the community as a whole.
Charles Odum of the Associated Press has more details on the ceremony and statue:
Dominique Wilkins said his statue unveiled by the Atlanta Hawks means ''we have history here now.''
The granite sculpture unveiled on Thursday, which stands 13 1/2 feet tall and weighs 18,500 pounds, captures Wilkins taking off for a dunk, holding the ball in his right hand. [...]
''This statue stands for so much more than just your accomplishments on the court,'' Silver said. ''It's a symbol of the fabric of the community that you've become and all that you've accomplished on and off the court.'' [...]
''Nobody loves this organization more than I love it,'' Wilkins said. ''I bleed and breathe Hawks. Even when I played for other teams I felt funny, because I was a Hawk.'' [...]
There were also video tributes, including one from Larry Bird, who took a playful jab at Wilkins by saying ''Congratulations on that statue. I'm pretty sure it wasn't made with you in a defensive stance.''
You can also take a look at a few more photos of the statue here:
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Wilkins remains the Hawks' all-time leader in games played, points, and many more scoring categories. He made nine-straight All-Star teams from 1986 through 1994, won two Slam Dunk competitions, and was named to the All-NBA First Team in 1986.
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The statue unveiling is just the biggest event in "Nique Week," during which the Hawks have gone all-out in celebrating the accomplishments and impact of Wilkins. He will also be honored during Friday's home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, seemingly Atlanta's biggest competition to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
Wilkins remains a major part of the Hawks as a color commentator on FOX Sports South broadcasts and the franchise's Senior Vice President of Basketball, a catch-all position that involves an advisory role and various community outreach efforts. There's a strong case that Bob Pettit is the best player in franchise history, but no player is more closely associated with the Hawks than Nique. If a public statue serves a civic role rather than just an athletic one, then Wilkins is absolutely deserving of the honor.
Creating a meaningful connection to Atlanta has been a constant topic of conversation surrounding the unveiling of the statue. Wilkins expanded on the idea in a recent interview with Jonathan Abrams of Grantland:
It’s really hard to put into words what this does for me and my family. It’s a moment that never can be duplicated. And what it does for me, to be honest with you, is that in this city of Atlanta, we do have a basketball heritage and this is a statement to that effect. I feel it has been overlooked many, many, many years. It’s forgotten how successful this organization has been. Yeah, we haven’t won a championship, but we’ve played proud, consistent basketball in this city and we’ve had some great players come through this system. To have this statue for the city, for the state of Georgia, I mean, I can’t tell you how surreal this feels to me and for everybody in my family. This is a special moment.
It is likely that these references to the community are purposeful. The Hawks have made no secret of their desire to appeal to new demographics in Atlanta, and the team's considerable success this season have opened up an opportunity to bring in Atlantans who might otherwise not have been so enthusiastic. Wilkins is a franchise legend, but he's also one its employees. His public comments stand in for those of the franchise in a way that others' words do not.
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