Today Philips Arena carries the name earned by the Omni Coliseum beginning in 1982 as a slender 6 foot 8 inch forward out of the University of Georgia captured the imaginations of Hawks’ fans.
That slender-framed high flyer’s name was Dominique Wilkins. He was quickly dubbed the ‘Human Highlight Reel’ during his first few seasons in Atlanta. The leaping ability those in the state of Georgia had grown accustomed to was on display on the biggest stage as Wilkins participated in multiple NBA Slam Dunk Contests. His most memorable came as he defeated Michael Jordan head-to-head in the 1985 contest.
Present Hawks’ fans are beginning to feel similar every time rookie John Collins is in the open court. The same collective breath can be heard throughout Philips Arena with anticipation of a potential slam. Collins’ first splash in the league came in the NBA Summer League as he threw down multiple monstrous dunks. The 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft immediately earned expectations following his play this summer and early this season.
That attention has earned the 6 foot 10 inch forward consideration for the 2018 edition of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Collins has heard the whispers throughout the social media world as the NBA announced the All-Star teams earlier this week and hasn’t shied away from wanting to be a part of the showcase. Collins feels honored to be in the conversation.
“It’s really exciting and nerve-wracking,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of eyes watching the dunk contest, but then again it’s a big honor as well. It’s something that hopefully I can get into, but I’m grateful being in the conversation.”
An appearance in the on All-Star Saturday could do for Collins what it did for Wilkins during the 80s and Josh Smith’s Hawks in 2005. Beyond Collins as an individual the Hawks are a team that sits double-digit games below .500 so far this season, an electric performance by Collins on the big stage could be a highlight for a fan base looking for something to cling to in the form of positive growth in the near future.
“It would elevate it (my career) a lot,” Collins said. “Our team is in a bit of limbo trying to develop. So for me to get called into the dunk contest, that’s big time. My first year being able to go to L.A. to celebrate All-Star weekend would be big time if I get the call. It’ll be cool.”
Collins wasn’t born when Wilkins dunked his way past Jordan win in 1985, but as a basketball player and fan, he ranks it as one of the iconic moments in the NBA’s history. The Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine showdown in 2016 is the most memorable dunk contest Collins has seen in his lifetime.
Collins says he will get creative and prepare if the opportunity comes to fruition, but a call could go to guys who have been a part of the event before.
“I’m going to prepare for it a little bit, think of some new tricks with social media and all that, there’s a lot of dunks that have been done, so I’ll have to come up with something new and innovative if I’m selected,” Collins said. “There will be some practice just finding some new dunks, something creative.”
Collins wouldn’t have too far to look for advice as Wilkins works for Fox Sports calling the Hawks’ games.
“Nique was one of the greatest dunkers of all time in this league, so I’d definitely ask him some tips and tidbits on what he tried to do to be creative when he was in the dunk contest,” Collins said. “He and Jordan had the very legendary one, so it’s always great to have him around just to ask for his advice on new stuff for the dunk contest.”
The contestants have yet to be announced for the Feb 17 event, but Collins name has been an interesting and one that has been spoken in high frequency in recent weeks.