Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks legend, is known for quite a few things. He was the “human highlight film” with all of his spectacular dunks. He was a scoring machine, once leading the league in scoring in 1985-86. And he had wars with Larry Bird, including that epic Game 7 match-up in 1988.
But Wilkins had another Larry Bird story. From Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
“One of the first times I ever played against him, I went out for the opening tip and I went to shake his hand. He just stood there and looked at me stone-faced with his hands behind his back,” Wilkins said recently.
“I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Then we were getting ready for the tip and he says to me, ‘You don’t belong in this league, Homes.’ I couldn’t believe it, but it happened so fast, I didn’t know what to think.
“Then they had the ball and I was on him and he said, ‘I don’t know why they got you guarding me, Homes. You can’t guard me.’ Then, whap, he hit a 3. Then he came down again and said, ‘They made a mistake putting you on me, Homes,’ and he took another 3.”
Getting into the story, Wilkins began to act things out with his facial expressions.
“So now I’m hot,” he said. “I’m hot. I mean, I’m steaming.
“Then a little while later, I came down on a break and he was backpedaling. I just went right after him. I jumped up and he tried to challenge, but I took that right through the rim. He fell and hit the basket support.
“He got up and said, ‘I like you, rookie. You’ve got(guts).’ I was happy for a second, and then he said, ‘But I’m still going for 40 on you tonight.’ ”
He then paused the story, stepped back and smiled.
“But I got him,” Wilkins said. “He only scored 39.”
Bird only got 39 because the Celtics were blowing out the Hawks. Also, Larry Legend went for an incredible 18 for 22 on the field. But, hey, a win is a win for ‘Nique, right? Even if it means Bird scoring one short of 40.
I would love to hear more war stories from ‘Nique like this.
Dominique Wilkins picture from Getty Images.