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Dominique Wilkins remembers drowned teammate Dan Roundfield in surprising New York Times piece
By Eric Freeman | Ball Don't Lie – Thu, Dec 27, 2012 8:35 PM EST
Dan Roundfield (Ethan Miller/ Getty)
In early August, former NBA forward Dan Roundfield tragically died at the age of 59 while attempting (and succeeding) to help his wife Bernie through rough water in Aruba. In 11 seasons, Roundfield made three All-Stars (consecutively from 1980 through 1982 with the Atlanta Hawks), but his death was not given a great deal of media coverage beyond wire stories and brief notes.
That was an oversight by many, including those of us at BDL. After Roundfield's death, many teammates and acquaintances spoke of the effect he had on their careers and lives as both an athlete and friend. One of those players was Hawks great Dominique Wilkins, who credits Roundfield with teaching him "how to be a professional" when he first entered the league in 1982.
This week, Wilkins went the extra mile to make sure that people take note of Roundfield's effect on those he encountered during his life. In a feature called "The Lives They Loved," The New York Times invited readers to submit photographs and brief remembrances of loved ones who died in 2012. Wilkins, unprompted, sent in a photo and wrote a paragraph about Roundfield (via Deadspin):
This image captures one of the great NBA players of the last 35 years, Dan Roundfield. When one looks at this image, they instinctively think of Dan the Atlanta Hawks player, the tenacious defender and the NBA All-Star. He was certainly all of those things, but for those of us who knew him, we look at this image and think of Dan the selfless leader, the husband, the father and the fearless teammate and friend. Dan lost his life this year at the age of 59 saving his wife of 37 years from drowning on the beaches of Aruba while on a family vacation. In his last moments, as he himself was fighting for his life, Dan fearlessly lived and died for his family, which is all he ever really wanted. So yes, Dan Roundfield was a tremendous athlete who elevated basketball in the city of Atlanta, but what is even more tremendous is the imprint he made on all of us, his teammates, and on the lives of his wife, his two sons and his grandchildren.
It's a touching note full of feeling and a fine way to remember a player and man whose death might not have gotten the attention it deserved. Frankly, the same could be said of many of the pieces in this NYT feature. I recommend reading several, at random.
Wilkins's words also help serve as a reminder that the NBA is a community full of real people, not just athletes who perform for our pleasure. Sometimes, as in the case of Roundfield, they're more noble than we could ever expect.