Two-year-old Aisha Wilkins finger-rolled a handful of candy into her mouth and stared into her daddy's eyes.
"Can you say 'dunk,' Aisha?" asked Dominique Wilkins, her father.
"Dun," said Aisha.
Someone suggested she take a pass at "pass."
"Nah, she can't say that word," said Wilkins. "It's not in her family vocabulary." Then he leaned back and smiled.
That wouldn't have been so funny last season, back when Jacques Dominique Wilkins was just a high-jumping, basket-stuffing curiosity and not a Real Player. Wilkins was strictly sideshow. He peaked in the slam dunk championships on All-Star weekend and was then forgotten, like his Atlanta Hawks, while the prime-time small forwards—the Birds, the Worthys, the Ervings—were trotted out for the playoffs.
Well, wonder of wonders, deep into April the name of Dominique Wilkins is still on everyone's lips. After winning the NBA's regular-season scoring championship with a 30.3 average, Wilkins scored 28 and 50 points last week as the Hawks whipped the visiting Pistons 140-122 and 137-125 in what was supposed to be the most evenly contested of the NBA's first-round miniseries. One more win and the Hawks would advance to the second round for the first time since the 1978-79 season, when Wilkins was a high-flying senior for the Washington ( N.C.) High School Pam-Pack.
What was most impressive about Wilkins' 50-point performance, the first in the playoffs since Bob McAdoo scored that many for Buffalo in 1975, was that his 19 field goals did not include a single dunk. (The next day, Chicago's Michael Jordan reached the 50 mark and then some with a playoff-record 63 against Boston, page 32.) There were square-up jumpers, post-up jumpers, jumpers off the break and jumpers off moves in the lane, but no dunks. A dunkless 50 for Wilkins is like Moonlighting without a glimpse of Cybill Shepherd's legs. It's just not supposed to happen.
"Boy, that's unbelievable, isn't it?" said Wilkins, shaking his head after the game. "No way this would've happened before this season."
A few days earlier, Wilkins had been pondering his reputation as he whipped his silver 500 SEC Mercedes in and out of traffic en route to his home in Marietta, a northwestern suburb of Atlanta. "This season I wanted to prove I was a total player," Wilkins said. "I wanted to change people's opinion of me. It bothered me that I had never made the All-Star team, that people thought all I could do was dunk. Well, I've proved it now. No question about it."