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Connie Hawkins: They held him back but couldn't keep him down

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Over and Back NBA Podcast

Over and Back NBA Podcast

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We are joined by Curtis Harris of Pro Hoops History in discussing the life and career of Connie Hawkins, the New York City playground legend and ABA superstar who was unfairly blackballed by the NBA until his late 20s.

We discuss Hawkins being one of the first above-the-rim offensive superstars, how his high-flying grace and acrobatics inspired Julius Erving and Michael Jordan, his incredibly huge hands and ball fakes, popularizing the finger roll, growing up in Brooklyn and his success on the playgrounds and at Boys High School, including a legendary battle against Roger Brown.

We also talk about his recruitment to the University of Iowa, getting ensnared in a gambling scandal because of a tenuous association with gambler and former NBA star Jack Molinas, a false confession after weeks of interrogation by New York detectives, and being banned by the NBA despite never being charged with a crime. We also dig into Hawkins becoming MVP of the fledging rival league the ABL at age 19, playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, filing an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, and winning a championship in the ABA with the Pittsburgh Pipers.

We also talk about the settlement that led Hawkins to finally join the NBA, finding success with the Phoenix Suns, how he shined despite injuries taking their toll on his brilliance, his waning years with the Lakers and Hawks, finding meaning in his life after basketball, his sense of humor, and how much his Hall of Fame induction meant to him. We also play a what-if game for him joining the NBA in 1964 and how history might have changed.

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