For any NBA fan that grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s they will always think of Dominique Wilkins when the term highlight is brought up. He was nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” for his thunderous dunks and for his outstanding play on the court.
Wilkins played most of his NBA career for the Atlanta Hawks. The nine time NBA All-Star was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He was also the 1986 NBA Scoring Champion. Now Wilkins is the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Hawks. This year he has created the first ever Dominique Wilkins Fantasy Camp, where fans of the NBA get to feel just like a player in the league.
I was able to chat with Dominique about his time in the league, fatherhood, dunk contests, his camp, his signature shoes with Reebok and more.
Art Eddy: You had a great career in the NBA. You were elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, a 9 time NBA All-Star, 1986 NBA Scoring Champion and the list can go on and on. Looking back at your fantastic career is there a moment that stands out the most?
Dominique Wilkins: That is a great question. I think the thing that stands out the most is the level of talent I played against and with during my time in the NBA. In my opinion it was the greatest era of basketball. We had so many great players.
AE: Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals when you and the Hawks took on Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics was so thrilling to watch. It has to be hands down one of the best playoff games out there. Where does that game rank for you in your career?
DW: Probably in the top two or three games of all time in my career. That game was going to determine who would be going to the Eastern Conference Finals. So that was a game for the ages. No question about it.
AE: Keeping with that game. You were in the zone that day. Can you describe what it is like for a player to be in that zone?
DW: The zone that you are in you don’t see nothing, but the rim. That is all you see, the basket. You are at a point where you feel like nothing can wrong and no one can stop you. That is what that feeling was like for that game.
AE: Besides Atlanta were there other cities you loved to play in?
DW: The places that I loved to play in were Boston Garden. I loved to play in Chicago. I loved to play in L.A. Who didn’t love to play in L.A.? (Both laugh.)
AE: Was there one team or even a few teams that you looked forward to playing against more than others?
DW: I had a lot. There were quite a few teams that I liked to play against. I felt that way with New York. I felt that way with Chicago. I definitely wanted to go head to head against Mike (Jordan) and guys like that. So you had your teams that you like to play more than others.
AE: Another great part of your game was your crazy skills at dunking. I had one of your posters from one of your Slam Dunk contests in my room. During those contests did you have a game plan of which dunks you would do for each round?
DW: I didn’t. I really had no plan. Everything was spontaneous. I did it as it came. I never went and practiced in the gym by myself. I never did any of that stuff. We just took it as it came. We just got creative as we played in those contests.
AE: Nowadays I feel the Slam Dunk contest doesn’t even come close to what you guys did back in the day. How would you improve the Slam Dunk contest for the future?
DW: I would go back to the old format. Get three dunks. You miss, you get a low score. You make it you get a decent score or a great score. It all depends how the dunk was.
AE: You and Reebok had a sick shoe campaign for the Reebok Pump. What was it like to get your own signature shoe?
DW: It was great. I really enjoyed that. It is something that I am looking forward to reinventing. To really push that retro product and the way we did things. To have someone be able to identify with that shoe.
AE: You must be happy with the way Reebok is bringing these retro kicks back as part of the “This is Classic” campaign right?
DW: Oh yeah. Definitely want to get more involved in the whole structure of it and the campaign itself. I think it can be big.
AE: I feel now the NBA is more about offense than defense. Do you like the way the game is played now or would you have wanted the game to stay like it was during your time in the league?
DW: The NBA is still great. From a marketing standpoint it is the best it has ever been. The game has changed a little from a physical standpoint. More guys play at multiple positions now. In our day that was something that wasn’t done. Certain positions back then had a license to play a bit more physical than other positions. It is just a different time.
AE: Tell me a bit about the fantasy camp you will have later this year.
DW: The fantasy camp is something that we are really excited about. It is going to start in August. We are really looking forward to be putting this thing together and really getting a lot of people around the country involved with it. This is something that I have been really wanting to do for a long time. Now it is at the point where it is really happening.
AE: What can people expect to happen if they go to this camp?
DW: I can’t tell you everything man. (Both laugh.)
AE: Okay. Fair enough.
DW: It is going to be fun. Like I said it just about guys who are businessmen that come in for a weekend and they will feel like they are NBA players.
AE: Let’s talk a bit about fatherhood. What did you want to make sure you did for your children as they were growing up?
DW: Growing up with a missing father for most of my life I wanted to make sure that my kids never experienced that. So I tried to do as much fatherly things that I could. I enjoy being with my kids now more than when I was a player because I have more time to spend with them.
With my younger sons and daughters, I cherish their relationships because now I get to see them grow up without me being on the road all the time.
AE: We always see our traits in our kids, both good and bad. What are some of the traits you see in your kids that you know they picked up from you?
DW: My youngest son is like my mini me. My daughters are different than me. Girls are going to be different. They got their own personality and their own attitudes and things that they love. You can never understand little girls. They are going to be who they are. For a daddy it is great to have a relationship with their daughters though. That is a different type of relationship that you will have with your son.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
DW: The perfect family vacation for me is going to Barbados with the whole family for about seven days.