Few basketball players have played the game with the grace and style of Connie Hawkins. Unfortunately, most basketball fans were unable to see “The Hawk” take flight in his prime because he was an innocent victim of a college basketball points shaving scheme. Despite never having participated or been involved in any point shaving, Hawkins was blacklisted from the NBA during his prime basketball years.
Hawkins was a legend on the streets of New York as a youth. Before heading to Iowa to play college basketball for the Hawkeyes in 1960, Hawkins received a small loan from Jack Molinas, who he met in the summer and who was a key figure in the CCNY point shaving scandal of 1951. Hawkins was unaware of Molinas’s reputation. Molinas made the loan as a way to attempt to snare Hawkins in point shaving, but admitted in prison that the scheme never progressed further than the initial loan. Connie’s brother Fred repaid Molinas.
Despite the fact that Hawkins was never accused of fixing a game or being approached to fix a game, Iowa revoked his scholarship after Molinas mentioned Hawkins’s name in a prison interview. No other college would offer him a scholarship. No NBA team drafted Hawkins in 1964 or 1965 and he was formally banned by the league in 1966, despite a lack of evidence that he had ever done anything wrong.
Hawkins toured with the Harlem Globetrotters and played in minor basketball leagues before joining the ABA in 1967 and becoming one of the upstart league’s first stars. He eventually joined the NBA in 1969 after receiving a $1.3 million dollar settlement from the league. His rights were assigned to the expansion Phoenix Suns. He was an All-Star from 1970-1974 but knee injuries kept him from fully showcasing his electrifying moves to NBA fans.