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In 1946, the very year a bunch of arena owners launched the Basketball Association of America, a twenty-something schoolteacher in Harlem launched a youth basketball league at a local playground.

Fast-forward about 15 years:

There were maybe four, five thousand people watching the game, and all of a sudden a hush came over them. All you could hear was a whisper: ‘The Hawk, The Hawk, The Hawk is here.’ Then the crowd parted. And the Hawk walked onto the court.  [Axthelm’s The City Game]

Sadly, the visionary and community-minded young educator – whose name was Holcombe Rucker – was not among the assembled multitude when Connie Hawkins evoked such admiration. (Mr. Rucker’s “village” lost him to cancer in 1955.)
Prescott (AZ) Evening Courier, Nov. 12, 1970

And Friday we lost The Hawk, whose tale is so rife with tragic “what might have beens” that ol’ Will Shakespeare himself must be salivating at such tragically heroic possibility.

A high school as well as schoolyard legend, Connie Hawkins’ promising college career (he’d have been a teammate of five-time Celtic champion Don Nelson) was de-railed by a casual “shoulder-brush” with a shady character named Jack Molinas – likewise his shot at the NBA.

Between upstart leagues (ABL, ABA) and the Globetrotters, Hawk kept playing until he was able to “sue” his way into the NBA in 1969, posting a stat line of 24, 14 and 7 as a 27-year-old-rookie. (Ironically, Connie and fellow-New Yorker Lew Alcindor joined the league together.)

Connie Hawkins made his Boston Garden debut late in that initial season, on Tuesday February 10, 1970. The Hawk’s reputation had preceded him to Beantown. Among that night’s assembled multitude – alas, it was a school night, so yours truly had to wait a couple of weeks – was none other than Bill Russell, making his first post-retirement Garden appearance.

Game has always known Game.

Abacus Reveals 10/08/2017 09:44:00 AM Edit
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