That night in Atlanta, the Hawks faced the young and fearless New York Knicks squad. The 1988/89 Hawks felt that with the addition of the explosive guard Reggie Theus and experienced center Moses Malone, they should be considered the contenders to win it all.
In an open-court type of game, both teams would apply their whole court pressure to create planned defensive havoc, resulting in up to 28 turnovers combined. This end-to-end combat ideally suited the Hawks – Theus led all scorers with 32 points, Malone poured in 30 points, just as many as superstar Dominique Wilkins who yielded 12 out of 26 field goals.
As usual, the human highlight film amazed and energized the faithful Atlanta crowd with a couple of spectacular transitional slam dunks.
In the end, the Hawks edged the Knicks by 128-126, but that evening the talk of the town would be the spectacular slam dunk from Knicks’ forward Kenny Walker over the Hawks center Jon Koncak.
On that particular night, the Knicks’ third-year power forward, already known for his airborne shows, came off the bench for a 21-minute stint on the OMNI Arena floor. Walker scored only 4 points to go, along with one board and two assists, while being the close witness to Wilkins’ slams.
Throughout the 1988/89 season, Walker’s role in the Knicks rotation declined. With the arrival of Oakley, who took over the starting role, Walker started only two games compared with 125 in the previous two seasons. Walker’s minutes per game also took a massive downfall to 14.7 per game, down from 26.1 the past season, thus reflecting in the lowest numbers in absolutely all statistical categories.
In a game dominated by his superstar peer, Wilkins, Walker just needed something to express his growing anger and frustration and remind everyone of his skills and capabilities. The perfect opportunity arose on a Knicks break – Rivers and Theus double-teamed Mark Jackson, so he dished off the rock to Walker, who was open in the left lane. With no other than 7’0″ Hawks center Jon Koncak in front of him, fearless Walker explosively leaped.
Not wanting to be posterized by Walker, the 1984 Olympian partially got out of the way, while Walker completed a tremendously powerful transition slammer. Only 47 days later, in Houston, Walker used his most unique combination of power and grace to win the 1989 NBA Slam dunk contest.
Basketball Network contributor Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is the 1980s and 1990s basketball specialist, proud author of the Amazon.com TOP 100 basketball biography ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’.