ATLANTA — The Hawks unveiled a large statue of franchise legend Dominique Wilkins on Thursday at Philips Arena.
Measuring 13½ feet in height, the bronze statue with a granite base was unveiled at a private luncheon and ceremony on the arena floor. Guests included NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the current Hawks roster and coaching staff, Hawks alumni and NBA notables of Wilkins’ generation such as Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Bernard King and Charles Barkley.
Philadelphia 76ers luminary Julius Erving invited Wilkins on stage and counted down from 10 to the unveiling of the statue. An emotional Wilkins took a moment to gather himself before delivering his remarks to the audience.
“We talk about being immortalized in your life,” Wilkins told the audience. “What bigger stage to stand on than to have a statue of you in front of the franchise and building that you love? I know nobody who loves this organization like I do … I bleed and breathe Hawks. Even when I played for other teams, I felt funny.”
The statue is outside the main entrance of Philips Arena in front of the totemic 65-foot steel letters that compose the city’s name. Sculptor Brian Hanlon said that after studying numerous still photos and videos of Wilkins and repeated conversations with him, he settled on the moment of “anticipation of the dunk” as the pose for the likeness of Wilkins.
Wilkins, an 11-time All-Star known affectionately among Hawks fans as the “Human Highlight Film,” holds the franchise record for points (23,292) and games played (882) over his 11½-season tenure in Atlanta. One of the NBA’s more dynamic dunkers, Wilkins was the centerpiece of a Hawks team that won at least 50 games over four consecutive seasons in the 1980s. His shootout with the Boston Celtics‘ Larry Bird in the Hawks’ Game 7 loss of the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals is regarded as one of the NBA’s most iconic games.
In 2000, Wilkins joined the Hawks in an official capacity as the special assistant to the organization’s executive vice president. In 2004, Wilkins was named vice president of basketball, where he has often represented the organization in the public sphere and performed various ambassadorial functions.
The Hawks will pay tribute to Wilkins on Friday night during halftime of the team’s game with the Cleveland Cavaliers.