We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We don't have a "Sports" category, but maybe we should. I normally wouldn't call out a seemingly obscure sports obituary. However, it seems worthwhile, particularly in these 'racially troubled' times (let me be clear, I don't feel we are in any troubled times, but Connie Hawkins' story goes to show just how far we've come).
I was surprised to learn Hawkins passed away. In fact, I'd forgotten about him, more or less. Not an extremely well-known NBA player after the early 70's, in his early years he had been blacklisted by the NBA because he was implicated in a point shaving scandal. The problem, of course, was he was a freshman in college, ineligible to play, and couldn't have been involved in any point shaving. During the investigation, he was denied the right to legal counsel while being interviewed by NYC police.
As a result, he was expelled from school, and the NBA blackballed him. He played for the Globetrotters, the Wizards and eventually joined the fledgling ABA and proved he was every bit as good as expected. Unfortunately toward the end of the 1968-69 season, he injured his knee and it required surgery. That same year, his suit against the NBA's blackball was settled and he received a large payment as well as having his rights assigned to the Phoenix Suns.
His first season, he again set out to prove he was a top tier player. But after 8 years of being denied the right to play professionally, many of his best years were behind him. Despite this, he averaged 24.6 points per game, 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists. There's little doubt that, fully healthy, Hawkins would have been a premier talent, probably even an NBA legend, if not for circumstances lining up against him.
7 years later, his career was over. He remained a regular at Phoenix poker rooms for years, where his affable nature and celebrity kept him in good company. He was honored by the NBA and inducted into the Hall of Fame because of his overall contributions to the game, in 1992. The Phoenix Suns retired his number, 42.
In the genre of sports literature, 2 books stand out to me. Ball Four and Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story. I read both in my early teens, and they taught me as much about life as they did about sports and celebrity. They are, in various ways, classics and paved the way for all the stories in that genre which followed. They broke the rules of silence surrounding sports, exposing the soft underbelly and dirt which were previously ignored because athletes were icons, and sports leagues seemingly incorruptible (despite the Black Sox Scandal, Americans had a love affair with sports leagues and even today these flawed organizations are viewed as leaders and examples for young athletes). Hawkins was a victim, as opposed to a perpetrator (unlike Jim Bouton), of bad behavior.
What may have made him most well-known, toward the end of his injury-riddled NBA career, was a sketch on the second episode of Saturday Night Live, in which he played Paul Simon in a game of one-on-one.
Here is a link to the video (there is no embed capability, unfortunately). The Paul Simon/Connie Hawkins sketch occurs about the 17:20 mark.
I had the chance to watch Connie Hawkins for most of his ABA career. He wa the first of the high flyers, able to take off from the foul line and dunk, even with knees that were already shot. I later worked for the law firm that got him into the NBA and went to the same gym he did after his retirement. He was a great player and a thoroughly down to earth person.
I was privileged to see Connie Hawkins play for the Pittsburgh Rens of the old ABA. In some ways, he was like a man among boys. I can remember a large group of players converging under the basket for a rebound, and suddenly one skinny arm reaching high above all the rest, and grabbing a one-handed rebound. He was amazing.