*We have sad news to report from the world of sports. The phoenix Suns have announced that Hall of Fame forward Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins died on Friday at the age of 75.
The Suns did not disclose the cause of death. Hawkins, who lived in the Phoenix area, had been in frail health for several years and was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007.
“‘The Hawk’ revolutionized the game and remains to this day an icon of the sport and one of basketball’s great innovators,” the team issued the following statement. “His unique combination of size, grace and athleticism was well ahead of its time and his signature style of play is now a hallmark of the modern game. A flip of the coin changed the Sun’s fortunes and he helped put Phoenix on the map as the city’s first professional sports superstar. Rightfully, he became the first Suns player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and his No. 42 hangs in the rafters at Talking Stick Resort Arena as part of our Ring of Honor. Connie’s passion for the game was only matched by his desire to give back to the Phoenix community, a role which he played proudly as a Suns community ambassador, spreading warmth and kindness to everyone he encountered. We will miss Hawk dearly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends as we mourn the passing of a true Suns legend.”
Hawkins started his career with two years in the ABA. He then played seven season in the NBA, where he made four All-Star teams. He spent most of his career with the Suns from 1969 to 1973 and averaged 20.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Hawkins was seen as a player ahead of his time. He had a blend of flair and finesse later exemplified by the likes of Julius Erving and Michael Jordan. A rangy forward who was officially listed as 6-feet-8, Hawkins possessed hands that could effortlessly palm a basketball and make the large orange sphere look no bigger than a grapefruit. The traits that defined his game helped turn what was a largely ground-based sport into the acrobatic, high-flying one so many know it as today.
Raised in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Hawkins became one of several in a vaunted line of New York City playground legends, dazzling those who saw him play and creating a budding aura around himself.
Hawkins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Read/learn MORE about the legendary career of Cornelius “Connie” Hawkins at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.