Ferocious. Finesse. A game that was equal parts silky and powerful.
That was Dominique Wilkins on the basketball court.
That’s Wilkins, the car shopper.
Though he is big fan of cars — calling them likely his “biggest weakness” — Wilkins acknowledges, “I’m a little cheap, too,” when it comes to finding one.
“So I’m always looking to find the best possible deal, be it for a truck or be it for a car for my family,” he said by phone on Friday.
Retiring from his playing days in 1999, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer is now vice president of basketball and special adviser to CEO for the Atlanta Hawks.
He’s also partnering with Autotrader in helping to promote its new site, which launched earlier this year.
Autotrader was working with Wilkins during the NBA All-Star weekend to help generate awareness of the new site. This was just part of the company’s marketing presence throughout the weekend. Others included the Autotrader Car Giveaway and the company’s new TV commercial that aired that weekend.
The latter helped drive a 14.5-percent increase in sessions on the site on Monday following the event, as well as 15.7 percent more vehicle details page views, the company said.
Near-new car ‘that looks brand new’
I had the chance to talk with Wilkins on Friday of NBA All-Star 2018 weekend and ask him, among other questions, how he goes about buying a vehicle.
Wilkins said he has bought “a lot” of vehicles through Autotrader over the years, including two for his son, one of which was the recent purchase of a pre-owned Dodge Challenger.
“He’s in college now, so he needed something to get around with. But I didn’t want to get him a brand new car,” Wilkins said.
“So I got him an almost-brand-new car that looks brand new,” he added, with a laugh.
Throughout the years, Wilkins says the site has been the “easiest way” for him to get a car.
“I’ve bought a lot of cars through Autotrader, so it’s kind of a nice marriage for me to be here and to help them represent what they’re launching with their new site,” Wilkins said.
He emphasized how the new site can make the process easier and faster, while giving the shopper a more personalized experience. Wilkins emphasized an appreciation for being able to understand the vehicle more comprehensively prior to buying the car, through amenities like vehicle history information.
“When you buy a car (through) Autotrader, you know exactly what you’re getting,” he said. “And I don’t care if it’s an SUV (or) a Mercedes-Benz.”
‘Actually, I won four’
Our chat was on the eve of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, of which he won two during his career.
“Actually, I won four,” Wilkins interjected with a laugh. “I just got credit for two.”
One of the most memorable battles was the 1986 competition against 5-foot-7 Spud Webb, who was one of his teammates on the Atlanta Hawks.
Webb played at N.C. State, which is my alma mater, so I just had to ask Wilkins: Who was the better dunker?
“That’s a trick question,” Wilkins joked.
“You know what? For his size, (Webb) was an amazing athlete and dunker … For a guy his size, he’s the best I’ve ever seen. He’s the best I’ve ever seen, by far,” Wilkins continued. “But I tried to beat the brakes off him when I went against him, so I’m not going to lie.”
Of course, Wilkins said he could not have been happier for his teammate, who he called “one of my best friends.”
The dunk contents certainly helped Wilkins create a brand. And although dunking was a “tool of intimidation” he used, it was just part of what he brought to the court. As Wilkins aptly pointed out, dunks alone aren’t like to get you to 26,000- points.
And many of those points came as Wilkins went toe-for-toe with Michael Jordan for NBA scoring titles, a foe he also faced in Slam Dunk competitions.
So any chatter between the two legends on the court?
“We never talked. We never talked. We showed each other a lot of respect because we enjoyed playing against one another,” Wilkins said. “But I chased Michael for six or seven years on the scoring title. I just got to a point (where) I said, ‘You know what? I’m tired of chasing this guy.’”
And the battles, he remembers, were close ones.
“It was a great battle and great games that we played against one another. And there’ll never — and you can quote me — there’ll never be another Michael Jordan,” he said. “Not in this lifetime.”
I’d argue there might not be another Dominque Wilkins either.
Or the era in which they played — which was filled with Lakers-Celtics, the original Dream Team, the Bad Boy Pistons, the Bulls’ six championships and a who’s who of NBA legends.
Course, the current era is pretty great, and a renaissance in and of itself.
“Every era is different, and it’s ever-evolving as far as the level of interest in the game. The game is a worldwide game now,” Wilkins said. “And I think the commissioner has done a wonderful job at elevating our game and promoting it. It’s as big as it’s ever been. And it’s because of the leadership that we have from the NBA that has made it this big.”