Dominique Wilkins has held his own as one of professional basketball’s most influential players. The Atlanta Hawks legend nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” was recently honored with a statue in front of Philips Arena, becoming the ninth overall NBA player in history to have s statue made in his honor.
The upright granite figure weighing 18,500 pounds, was chiseled by sculptor Brian Hanlon. Its 13-foot pose simulates the Basketball Hall of Famer wearing his trademark jersey number, 21, going up for one of his memorable slam dunks.
Wilkins, a two-time Slam Dunk Champion, believes the statue, referring to it as “a landmark,” was a long time coming. “That statue represents change, history that we can finally support and build the rich basketball tradition we have here in Atlanta,” says Wilkins.
The statue was unveiled during “Nique Week,” including a scarlet red-themed luncheon reuniting Wilkins with his coaches, Hawks staff and NBA colleagues. Mayor Kasim Reed presented Wilkins with a Phoenix Award while City Council President Ceasar Mitchell named an honorary street after Wilkins.
The Hawks wore replicas of Wilkins’ uniform during their Mar. 6 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Artist Dan Dunn crafted a multi-colored live painting of Wilkins’ profile. Wilkins was awarded a plaque framing his jersey signed by the team’s roster.
Twenty-one thousand collector’s t-shirts were in each of the seats throughout Philips Arena. The modest, nine-time NBA All-Star and the Hawks’ all-time leading scorer expressed his appreciation to both the Hawks and the screaming fans.
“The fans have supported me and made me the man that I am today,” says Wilkins during halftime. “Basketball was a small part of that.”
Serving as the Hawks’ Vice President of Basketball since 2004, Wilkins, originally drafted by the Utah Jazz during his junior year at the University of Georgia, was celebrated with numerous photo collages and vintage highlight films emphasizing his athleticism, sportsmanship and humanitarian efforts like raising awareness for diabetes.
Reiterating how humbled he is by the statue’s unveiling, Wilkins specifically pointed out how his following spans generations. “The kids that are here had parents who rooted for me,” asserts Wilkins.
“Some of their parents rooted, even though I’m not that old. This is not just about me. You’ve made ‘The Human Highlight Film’ your favorite son. I’m a Hawk forever, and I’m never leaving this city.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor. He is also contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.