When remembering NBA basketball in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was just one player in the League who came close to the extraordinary aerobatic exploits of Michael Jordan. It was Atlanta Hawks forward Dominique Wilkins who amazed fans across the globe with his own unique acrobatics, variety of scoring moves and the ability to score 30+ points against any given team.
On February 24th, 1994, after 11 and a half seasons of fruitful cooperation with their superstar, the Hawks decided to trade The Human Highlight Filmto the L.A. Clippers for forward Danny Manning.
After that day, the profile of Wilkins' career completely changed with him becoming more of a journeyman who played no more than a complete season for six teams around the globe.
The Clippers crowd still saw some of the best Wilkins could put on the table - the 1994 Dream Team member scored 29.1 ppg to go along with 7.0 rpg in 25 games with the 1993-94 Clippers.
The next place where Wilkins checked in was Boston, the hometown of his 1980s EC nemesis, the Celtics. He started as many as 62 games for that team but willingly accepting a much reduced offensive role.
But make no mistake - his presence paid off dividends and the Celtics made the 1995 NBA play-offs.
From Massachusetts, Wilkins traveled to Greece. Starring for the traditional Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos BC, Wilkins was a major contributor for the team that wonthe 1996 FIBA Euroleague.
At that point in time, it seemed unlikely that the 37-year old superstar could perform yet another successful NBA comeback. But he did just that in 1996-97, shutting down all the ‘nay-sayers,’ while leading all San Antonio Spurs scorers with 18.2 points per game. The very next season, Wilkins again decided to go overseas and play in Europe, this time starring for Italian powerhouse Teamsystem Bologna.
Although the next 1998-99 NBA season was shortened due to the 1998 NBA lock-out, Wilkins decided to perform yet another NBA comeback, this time his last.
That season he appeared in a total of 27 games for the Orlando Magic while uniting forces with his brother Gerald Wilkins. By doing that, Dominique and Gerald Wilkins became only the sixth pair of brothers ever to play on the same NBA team!
“I know where I am in my career, and I think ‘Nique knows where he’s at in his career. It’s been great. Basically, he wanted to get back on a good team that can contend. And he’s on that.”
The Magic’s head coach Chuck Daly was very happy to have a legendary player like ‘Nique’on the team. But due to the initial lack of stamina he used him for only 9.3 minutes per game. Wilkins responded with averages of 5.0 ppg, 2.6rpg and 0.6 apg.
Although he wasn’t nearly a shadow of his primetime superstar self, Wilkins, however, did show some flashes of brilliance and did record quite a few interesting stat lines.
“It’s always frustrating when you’re used to playing a lot. But at the same time, I’m glad to be back into it. Like they say, ‘patience is a virtue.’ I’m patient.”
First, on March 8th, 1999 he lit up his ex-team the Atlanta Hawks with 15 points in 22 minutes while converting 7-10 field goals. Three nights later, in Dallas, he scored 12 points in only 11 minutes of playing time. Although he basically played limited minutes coming in from the bench, he was slowly but steadily warming up for his two most memorable performances of the Farewell season.
First, on March 30th, 1999 he torched the Nets with 17 points on 6-13 shooting in 13 minutes of action. Then, three nights later in Chicago, the Magic recorded one of the most memorable wins of the season, if not the decade, bybeating the 1998 NBA Champions, the Bulls by 47 points!
Wilkins just didn’t care if MJ was out there or not - supporting the complete Magic rally he contributed a season-high 19 points (on 8-13 shooting) to go along with 9 boards in 23 minutes of playing time. Dominique Wilkins currently holds 13th place on the NBA all-time career leaders list for points with a total of 26.668 career points.