[picappgallerysingle id="8472380"][picappgallerysingle id="373779"]When it comes to the Atlanta Hawk Franchise many think of the great Dominique Wilkins, Pistol Pete, the undersize Spud Webb, now the talented Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson. With only one championship in the history of professional basketball, the Atlanta Hawks are known for competing in the regular season, fighting in the playoffs, only to come up short when it counts most. The Celtics, Lakers, and Pistons not all have rings to show for their talented Hall of Fame individuals, they have the longevity of franchise players that make their debate easier. However, when someone speaks Atlanta Hawks, how can one name the 5 greatest players; when in retrospect teams have come up short, or players haven’t stayed with the franchise long enough to become the face of the franchise.
Obviously, we cannot judge or organize the list by how many championships a player has won alone, playing for the Hawks. (or can we?) Then let’s go by awards and accommodations. Pistol Pete, not only averaged 24 ppg but was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1974, and also All-NBA First Team. For those purist who judge by the number of championships a player wins, Cliff Hagon and Bob Pettit helped lead the Hawks to their only championship in the franchise history scoring over 13,000 points from 1958-1962 leading the Hawks with 18.0 ppg.
With that said, arguably the greatest franchise player in Hawks history has zero championships. Dominique Wilkins might be equivalent to Charles Barkley, top 50 in NBA history but no rings. Wilkins, with the help of Moses Malone battled Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas in the late 80’s, then Wilkins’ battled Ewing and Jordan in the 90’s. Wilkins’ Hawks were always competitive but could not get over the hump. Wilkins, has to be among the best, even if losing in the Eastern Conference play-offs was the closes he ever got to a ring. Mentioned with Wilkins was Moses Malone. Malone played his veteran years with the Hawks in the late 80’s averaging a double-double and snagging a NBA All-Star appearance. The 6’10 Hall of Famer help lead the Hawks to the playoffs, and was on the front line in some of the biggest play-offs battle in the franchise history. If we are talking short stints but great numbers, we have to look at Dikembe Mutumbo who put up stellar defensive numbers, and help lead the Hawks to two 50+ win seasons, All-NBA Defensive team and two All-Star appearances.
The point is when it comes down to naming the Hawks greatest players, what do we base the criteria on? Do we go right down the line of record holders, years played, and games won, or do we separate players’ individual success from their teams’ productivity. The Hawks may not have had the biggest names in NBA history like the Pistons, Celtics, and Lakers; however the Hawks have had talented players’ just limited success in winning championships. Old school players’ like Walter Bellamy, Lou Hudson, and Connie Hawkins, put up great numbers in their respective years, winning numerous awards and accommodations. While players like Steve Smith, Danny Manning, and Jim Jackson also had great numbers, wins but only played a few seasons in Atlanta. Do we count Moses Malone outstanding two years he gave us, or perhaps we are over-looking the small guys like Spud Webb who may not have the big points, but his assist to turnover ratio helped spread the ball around? No question the Hawks have had the talented Hall of Fame players and coaches, only when it comes to organizing the list from top to bottom. Without the glorified championships wins, and the dynasties, that is when the problem begins.