The one was at the peak of his power, and the other one has just stepped into the League.
On November 30th, 1982 contending Philadelphia 76ers led by Julius ‘The Doctor’ Erving visited young and dynamic Atlanta Hawks led by a star in the making, rookie forward Dominique Wilkins.
Before the game, 76ers strategist Billy Cunningham made clear to his players that 22-year old Hawks rookie could score – ‘Nique’ scored 20+ points in as many as 8 of his 13 inaugural NBA games.
At the same time, in the Hawks locker room ‘Nique’ was getting ready to unleash everything he has in this ‘battle of worlds’ at the forward spot. He was more than eager to face the 76ers superstar Julius ‘Dr.J’ Erving, who was, at that time, considered the game’s premium dunker ever!
‘Nique’ felt he had something to prove – and he did! That night, the crowd of 12,044 lucky fans in Atlanta’s Omni Arena witnessed a 14-point Hawks win (111-97) and a memorable duel between NBA elite forwards, who will both put their unique stamp on the phenomenon of 1980s NBA basketball.
Wilkins was particularly impressive initiating the standing ovations with the spectacular display of his power dunks in the contest in which he poured in 26 points, to go along with 11 boards and three dimes.
Erving had to use tricks to get around younger Wilkins, scoring 21 points of his own, to go along with seven boards. Philly was led by eventual 1983 MVP Moses Malone who scored 25 points and collected 24 boards!
That season (1982-83) the Hawks finished the regular season as the 2nd placed squad in the Central Division standings. On the other hand, Philadelphia 76ers enjoyed the ‘Dream season’ – Atlantic Division champions (with 65-17 record) went on to win the 1983 NBA Championship title!
For the season Wilkins averaged 17.5 points, 5.8 boards, and 1.6 dimes and thus made the All-NBA Rookie team along with fellow rookies Quintin Dailey, James Worthy, Terry Cummings, and Clark Kellogg.
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is a BN contributor and the co-author of the books ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ ('Drazen - Godine Zmaja') and 'Bridging the Generations' ('Most Generacija'). He resides in Zagreb, Croatia, currently working on his third book which tells the untold story of the 1989 Green Card Five.