The Hawk patch on the shoulder of the Phoenix Suns uniform jerseys commemorates Connie Hawkins, whose giant hands and high-flying style begin a straight line of basketball pedigree that goes from Hawkins to Doctor J to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. (Throw in Dominique Wilkins and Vince Carter, too.) Hawkins died in October at age 75; he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. Hawkins was a New York City playground legend (like Julius Erving after him), who allegedly could dunk by age 11. Also like Erving, Hawkins’s playground feats became legend not just pre-video and pre-cellphone, but largely pre-television. Hawkins was one of the few players whose extraordinary physical feats lived up to his outsize legend. [For Corey Booker, Tyson Chandler jerseys with ‘HAWK’ on it, check out the Phoenix Suns NBA Store]
The Hawk, as he was known both for his soaring athletic style and his surname, spent the best years of his NBA career with Suns. Hawkins spent time in the ABA (MVP, 1968) and with the Harlem Globetrotters first. But the Suns claimed him, and he the Suns. “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,” read a Suns release announcing Hawkins’s passing. Hawkins traveled far and flew high from his origins in Bed-Stuy. His effect on today’s NBA is large, even if most of today’s fans (and players) don’t know his name or his game. The HAWK patch on the Suns uniforms does a service not only to Hawkins, but to the game itself. VIDEO highlights below.