Cornelius L. “Connie” Hawkins (born July 17, 1942– October 6, 2017 ) is an American former American Basketball League, National Basketball Association and American Basketball Association player, Harlem Globetrotter, Harlem Wizard and New York City playground legend. It was on the New York City courts that he earned his nickname The Hawk.
During Hawkins’ freshman year at Iowa, he was a victim of the hysteria surrounding a point-shaving scandal that had started in New York City. Hawkins’ name surfaced in an interview conducted with an individual who was involved in the scandal. While some of the conspirators and characters involved were known to or knew Hawkins, none – including the New York attorney at the center of the scandal, Jack Molinas – had ever sought to involve Hawkins in the conspiracy. As a result of the investigation, despite never being arrested or indicted, Hawkins was expelled from Iowa. He was effectively blackballed from the college ranks; no NCAA or NAIA school would offer him a scholarship. NBA Commissioner J. Walter Kennedy let it be known that he would not approve any contract for Hawkins to play in the league. At the time, the NBA had a policy barring players who were even remotely involved with point-shaving scandals. As a result, when his class was eligible for the draft in 1964, no team selected him. He went undrafted in 1965 as well before being formally banned from the league in 1966.
With the major professional basketball league having blackballed him, Hawkins played one season for the Pittsburgh Rens of the American Basketball League and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. When that league folded, Hawkins spent three years performing with the Harlem Globetrotters.
During the time Hawkins was traveling with the Globetrotters, he filed a $6 million lawsuit against the NBA, claiming the league had unfairly banned him from participation and that there was no substantial evidence linking him to gambling activities. Hawkins’s lawyers suggested that he participate in the new American Basketball Association as a way to show that he was talented enough to participate in the NBA.
Hawkins joined the Pittsburgh Pipers in the inaugural 1967–68 season of the American Basketball Association, leading the team to a 54–24 regular-season record and the 1968 ABA championship. Hawkins led the ABA in scoring that year and won both the ABA’s regular-season and playoff MVP awards.
In 1969, Hawkins hit the ground running in his first season with the Suns, when he played 81 games and averaged 24.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. In the final game of his rookie season, Connie had 44 points, 20 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals. The Suns finished third in the Western Conference, but were knocked out by the Los Angeles Lakers in a great seven-game series in which Hawkins carried the Suns against a team that had future Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. For the series, Hawkins averaged 25 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists per game.
Hawkins missed 11 games due to injury during the 1970–71 season, averaging 21 points per game. He matched those stats the next year, and was the top scorer on a per-game basis for the Suns in 1971–72. However, he averaged only 16 points per game for the Suns in 1972–73, and was traded to the Lakers for the next season.
Injuries limited his production in 1974–75, and Hawkins finished his career after the 1975–76 season, playing for the Atlanta Hawks.
Career highlights and awards
ABA champion (1968)
ABA Playoffs MVP (1968)
ABA MVP (1968)
4× NBA All-Star (1970–1973)
ABA All-Star (1968)
All-NBA First Team (1970)
All-ABA First Team (1968–1969)
ABA All-Time Team
Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor
No. 42 retired by Phoenix Suns
ABL MVP (1962)
All-ABL First Team (1962)