Wilkins’ return is enough, for now

Published 11:22 am Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Nine-time NBA All-Star and Naismith Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins’ return to the place that started it all on Tuesday was long overdue, there’s no arguing that.

Sure, there was always a slight awkwardness surrounding the relationship he had with his town and vise-versa, but still. With the rain canceling the parade to celebrate the arrival of Wilkins and the success of the football team, there was always the slightest chance of an empty Washington Civic Center, the alternative location. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, hundreds crammed into the building to get a glimpse of a hometown hero and listen to what ended up being very wise words from a basketball legend. Mayor Mac Hodges deemed the day, Dec. 16, “Dominique Wilkins Day” and awarded Wilkins with a plaque.

Then, later that evening, Wilkins was honored again by having his No. 21 jersey retired by Washington High School. The crowd was electric, supportive and knew they were witnessing something special. Washington, as a school and as a town, did its part. Wilkins, on the surface, was humbled as a result and understandably emotional at times. He was seeing faces he hadn’t seen in more than 35 years.

That being said, ESPN Films was there to turn the exhibition into a documentary and, like most of their 30-for-30s, it’s going to be very well done. But for the people of Washington, the story doesn’t end there.

The town expects more from Wilkins moving forward, not in terms of how much money he gives to the town, that’s scarcely important. Rather, it’s how much time he offers to the youth of this community.

He spoke resolutely in his speech at the civic center and in the gymnasium.

“This is a great honor to come back to where it all started for me,” he said. “I’m so sorry I stayed away so long, but it’s not how long you stay (away), it’s when you come back. And now I’m back.”

A product of the late Dave Smith’s renowned teachings, let’s hope Wilkins stays true to his word. After all, he learned from the best.