When Dominique Wilkins learned in February that he was among the 16 finalists in this year's voting for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the former nine-time NBA All-Star and high-flying Atlanta Hawks forward figured his selection in the first year of eligibility would be a tomahawk slam dunk. Surprisingly, though, the player who was known as the Human Highlight Film did not receive the necessary 18 of 24 votes from the hall's honors committee in April. "You look at the list of guys who were on that ballot: Bernard King, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Mo Cheeks--and none of them got in?" says Wilkins, 45, who finished his 15-year career as the NBA's seventh alltime leading scorer. "I don't know what to tell you about that. I'm confident things will fall into place in due time." ( Coaches Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Jim Calhoun of Connecticut topped the list of five inductees.)
Wilkins put his disappointment aside and immersed himself in his role as a Hawks vice president, advising senior management on basketball issues and making appearances throughout Georgia on behalf of the team. He's also in the early stages of securing a 1% stake in the Atlanta Spirit, the $250 million LLC that owns the Hawks, NHL Thrashers and the operating rights to Philips Arena.
A three-time All-SEC selection at Georgia, Wilkins entered the 1982 NBA draft after his junior season and was the No. 3 pick, by Utah, which traded the rights to the 6'8" swingman to Atlanta in September. Wilkins led the Hawks to four 50-win seasons and eight playoff berths. He won the league scoring title in 1985--86 with a 30.3 average.
Wilkins is best remembered for his Game 7 shootout with Larry Bird in a 1987--88 Eastern Conference semifinal. Though Wilkins outscored Bird 47--34, the Celtics' great hit nine of his 10 fourth-quarter shots to lift Boston 118--116.
Midway though the '93--94 season Atlanta traded Wilkins to the Los Angeles Clippers; he also played for the Celtics, a team in Greece, the San Antonio Spurs, a team in Italy and the Orlando Magic before retiring in 1999. He is divorced and lives in Duluth, Ga., near his four daughters. Wilkins served as a special assistant to Hawks executive vice president Lee Douglas for four years, then was promoted to vice president in March 2004 after the Atlanta Spirit group bought the team. "I'm with a great group of owners," says Wilkins. "For me it's been a nice change."
-- Andrew Lawrence