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Basketball Great Connie Hawkins Dies at 75

Connie Hawkins, an NBA legend who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, and Harlem Globetrotters, died on Friday. He was 75.

The Phoenix Suns, for whom Hawkins played from 1969-1973, released a statement via Twitter on Saturday.

“‘The Hawk’ revolutionized the game and remains to this day an icon of the sport and one of basketball’s great innovators,” reads the statement. “His unique combination of size, grace, and athleticism was well ahead of its time, and his signature style of play is now a hallmark of the modern game.”

Hawkins was born in Brooklyn and became one of the city’s playground legends. He spent seven seasons in the NBA, averaging 16.5 points, eight rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.2 steals. He was a four-time NBA All-Star and made the All-NBA first team in 1969-70 — a season in which he averaged 21.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists for the Suns.

Hawkins was forced to start his career in the American Basketball League due to a questionable connection to the central figure in a point-shaving scandal. He went on the play with the Harlem Globetrotters and the American Basketball Association, and was named the MVP of the American Basketball Association after leading the Pittsburgh Pipers to the championship in the league’s inaugural season in 1967-68.

After a legal battle with the NBA and the publication of a Look magazine piece by David Wolf that exonerated Hawkins, the 6-foot-8 forward made his NBA debut with the Suns in the 1969-70 season at the age of 27.

Hawkins played in the NBA for only seven seasons because of knee problems, transferring to the Los Angeles Lakers in ’73 and playing his last season with the Atlanta Hawks in 1975-76. He was an All-Star from 1970–1973 and was named to the All-NBA First Team in the 1969–70 season. Hawkins’ No. 42 jersey was retired by the Suns, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

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