NBA Hall of Famer recalls his duel with Larry Bird 25 years ago

wilkins-hawks25 years ago today, future NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins battled Larry Bird in Game 7 of the Hawks-Celtics game in the 1988 NBA playoffs.

Dominique Wilkins joined Episode 116 of the Hang Time Podcast to talk about various topics, including this very game, that, according to Wilkins, is anything but forgotten by the basketball fans.

“I get reminded of that game all the time. Not a week goes by that I don’t get reminded of that game,” Wilkins said.

Dominique Wilkins played 15 years in the NBA, earned his spot on the All-Star team 9 times. He holds career averages of 24.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 35.5 mpg in 1074 (started 995) NBA games.

He scored 26668 points in his career, playing for Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic. Currenty, Wilkins is the vice president of basketball operations with the Atlanta Hawks.

When asked what memories he has left of that Hawks-Celtics game, Wilkins recalled that the Hawks were not to go down without a fight.

“What I remember is that in the end of 3rd quarter, when Bird got hot, I said to myself – If we go down, we go down fighting. They’re going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat, because I refuse to let us lose. Unfortunately, it went the other way.”

Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics came down to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1988. While basketball is a team game, this one came down to an old-fashioned shootout between Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins and Boston’s Larry Bird.

“It was like two gunfighters waiting to blink,” recalled Celtics forward Kevin McHale. “There was one stretch that was as pure a form of basketball as you’re ever going to see.”

Celtics had a 118-116 victory. Wilkins ended up with a game-high 47 points, shooting a brilliant 19-for-23 from the floor.

But it was the Celtics who were left standing at the end thanks to Bird, who finished with 34 points on 15-for-24 from the field, 20 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

Both Wilkins and Bird are the members of the NBA Hall of Fame. Wilkins said during the podcast that it’s really hard to explain what a player feels when he’s indicted to the Hall of Fame.

“What it does, it immortalizes you. That’s something that only a selected few get a chance to experience. Being a part of the basketball Hall of Fame, which covers the whole world, you can just imagine how small is that number of players who got the opportunity to experience that,” Wilkins said.


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