ERIE, Pa. — Dominque Wilkins had a smirk on his face as he explained to the Erie BayHawks players how he proved his doubters wrong throughout his career.
“People used to tell me all the time that I would never be anything. I’d never make it in the NBA,” the 2006 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee said to players in the BayHawks locker room. “You know what those people are saying now? ‘I knew he’d be a Hall of Famer one day.'”
Wilkins, who is the Atlanta Hawks Vice President of Basketball Operations, was in town to celebrate the BayHawks’ first Hawks Affiliate Night, where the players wore throwback Hawks jerseys with “BayHawks” across the front.
The Hawks legend has had plenty of experience this season with two-way players Josh Magette and Andrew White III, along with Hawks assignee Tyler Cavanaugh — all of which he said give off a great example for the players around the room.
“Tyler Cavanuagh is an example because he put in the work,” said Wilkins of the former two-way player who is now under contract with the Hawks. “He worked hard to get a contract. The guys in Erie around the locker room can learn from his hard work and patience.”
Wilkins has drawn a respect and understanding for players around the NBA G League, especially this season with NBA two-way players and assignees making splashes around the league. Wilkins, who was nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” for his highlight reel dunks, says you have to work on “honing in our skills and getting ready for the next level,” because players could get their number called upon at any moment.
“The G League sometimes displays the talent of guys that sometimes get lost in the shuffle, but a lot of the times they are also first or second round picks, sometimes low picks,” said Wilkins. “I tell guys all the time, you have to stay in the present during every opportunity. There’s very few in the world that get to play on the big stage. You’ve got to believe in yourself, and believe that you can accomplish any goal.”