San Antonio Spurs Retro: Dominique Wilkins Signs in Free Agency

By Rob Wolkenbrod
Oct 30, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks former small forward Dominique Wilkins (R) talks to former power forward Kevin Willis (L) prior to the Hawks' game against the Charlotte Hornets at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks former small forward Dominique Wilkins (R) talks to former power forward Kevin Willis (L) prior to the Hawks' game against the Charlotte Hornets at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Dominique Wilkins had a storied career in the NBA, but his stop with the San Antonio Spurs is often forgotten.

The San Antonio Spurs aren’t known for flashy free-agent signings. LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015 was an exception, as the organization usually finds success in the NBA Draft. Spurs legends David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were all selected in the draft, and each of these players became the foundation of San Antonio’s team, spanning over two decades.

However, in the midst of this, the Spurs did make a splashy offseason signing. Actually, it was a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer: Dominique Wilkins.

Wilkins is known for his storied career with the Atlanta Hawks, being one of the NBA’s best scorers. He averaged 25-plus points per game from 1984-94, before getting traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Human Highlight Film then went to the Boston Celtics for the 1994-95 season, regressed by 9 points per game, and left the league when the

The Human Highlight Film then went to the Boston Celtics for the 1994-95 season. He regressed by 9 points per game and subsequently left the league, as the Celtics were rebuilding.

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Wilkins went to Greece, to play for Panathinaikos in the 1995-96 season, nearly winning the Greek League title. It turned out to be his only season there, as he signed with the Spurs for the 1996-97 season.

Wilkins joined a Spurs team that had won 47-plus games from 1989-1996. They were led by David Robinson, who dominated the 90’s as one of the top big men in the NBA.

Along with players like Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, and Vinny Del Negro, there was much to like about this San Antonio team. They should have made noise in the Western Conference and even go for the NBA championship, especially after adding a dynamic-but-aging scorer to the bench.

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However, Robinson got hurt in the 1996 preseason. He returned in December, played 6 games, and broke his foot, resulting in a season-ending injury. It didn’t help that Elliott, the second-best player on the team, went down with an injury, too, and played just 39 games.

As a result, it became Wilkins’ team, at least in the scoring department. He led the way in points, with 18.2 per game, despite a 41 percent mark from the field. Del Negro, Johnson and Vernon Maxwell picked up some of the slack, but this wasn’t enough for the Spurs to make any noise. Instead, they finished 20-62 — the worst record in the NBA.

Wilkins’ final numbers for the 1996-97 season — as a 37-year-old — looked like this: 18.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 41 field goal percentage and a 29 percent three-point field goal percentage. It was enough for him to be the best player on the team, albeit on one that turned into a disappointment — until the Spurs got the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, picked Tim Duncan, and won five NBA championships with the team. Thanks, Dominique?

For what was a storied NBA career, that season in the Alamo City turned out to be Wilkins’ last quality performance. He went back to Europe in the summer of 1997, playing for Teamsystem Bologna of Italy.

In one last stand, Wilkins joined the Orlando Magic in 1998, to play with his brother, Gerald. Wilkins played in 27 games in the strike-shortened season, averaging career-lows in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage. He retired in 1999.

Next: Top 10 First-Round Picks in Spurs History

Once upon a time, Wilkins was a Spur. It was just a blip on the radar and something he won’t be known for. But, it happened and is part of San Antonio’s basketball history, which helped bridge the gap to a historic run of 20 years.

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