Fans visiting State Farm Arena are greeted by a pair of bronze statues paying homage to two of the most influential Atlanta athletes of all-time: Hawks’ franchise leading scorer Dominique Wilkins and four-time world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.
If Hawks guard Trae Young continues his production and play he’s showcased since being selected No. 5 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, “Ice Trae” may join them when it’s all said and done. Wilkins, Hawks vice-president of basketball and special advisor to the CEO, wouldn’t mind the company.
“At the end of the day it’s all up to him how far he goes,” Wilkins says. “A kid like that who loves to play the game the way he does, I think sky’s the limit. He’s at a level where I don’t think he’s going to slow down for a very long time.”
Young, 23, heads into the all-star break ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring at 27.8 points per game and fourth in assists at 9.3 per game. Posting five consecutive double-doubles for Atlanta (28-30) from February 4-13, Young was named an NBA All-Star for the second time in four seasons; he averaged a career-high 29.6 points per game during the 2019-20 campaign.
“Watching him every night is a pleasure to see him perform,” says Wilkins, a 2006 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who was recently included in the NBA 75th anniversary team. “He has that ‘it’ factor, that ‘wow’ factor, and he has no fear. He’s a guy who has unlimited range, so I’m glad to see him at the All-Star Weekend doing the 3-Point Contest. I think he has more than a good chance to win.
“He’s just a guy who can help lift a team and try to win every night.”
Young, who signed a five-year, $207 million extension in August, will test his 3-point prowess against Patty Mills, Fred VanVleet, Desmond Bane, Zach LaVine, Luke Kennard, CJ McCollum and Karl-Anthony Towns on Saturday. The following day, he’ll start alongside Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum and Andrew Wiggins for Team Durant in the 71st NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.
Wilkins, a nine-time NBA all-star known as “The Human Highlight Film” for his dunks, will be there not only watching the franchise’s present and future compete, but is also teaming up with Michelob Ultra to celebrate the NBA’s 75th anniversary.
Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Dikembe Mutombo and James Worthy are working with the official beer sponsor of the NBA to host a ’90s arcade bar experience in Cleveland featuring NBA Jam as well as musical performances by Fat Joe and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Each legend will also be featured on NBA Jam-inspired limited-edition Michelob Ultra cans available only in Cleveland during All-Star weekend.
While many around the NBA continue to look back in celebration of the league’s first 75 years, Wilkins is excited for the future of the Hawks, the franchise he scored 23,292 points for from 1982-94.
“History is made by what we do and what we accomplish throughout our journey,” he says. “I was one of the fortunate guys to be one of the first guys to kind of be the standard bearer and set a level that other guys can follow. (Young) has definitely done that and it’s great to see the history of our franchise continue to be built by guys after me. I’m really happy to have him a part of our team.”