ATLANTA — Dominique Wilkins hopes young fans take the time to learn about Lou Hudson. Wilkins says they’ll discover “Sweet Lou” was one of the best shooting guards in NBA history. Hudson, the smooth-shooting Hawks star who averaged more than 20 points during 13 NBA seasons, has died. He was 69.
Hudson was a six-time All-Star while with the Hawks in St. Louis and Atlanta, often playing away from the national spotlight.
“Young people today don’t know how good Lou Hudson really was,” Wilkins, a Hall of Famer, told The Associated Press. “He was a hell of a player. The guy could score with the best in history. He was a phenomenal basketball player.
“He should be a Hall of Famer and it’s amazing to me he’s not. He was one of the best (shooting) guards and that’s a fact. You go back and look at his career and look at the numbers and see what he did and you understand.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Hudson “represented the Hawks franchise with style and grace.”
“A six-time All-Star, Hudson left an indelible mark on the Hawks and the NBA, both as a player and a person,” Silver said. “On behalf of the NBA, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to Lou’s family and friends.”
Moments of silence were observed for Hudson before Atlanta’s game at New Jersey and Houston’s game at Minnesota last Friday night.
Hudson was the first face of the Hawks in Atlanta.
“At the beginning of my career, he became a very close friend,” Wilkins said. “He gave me a lot of positive advice about how to play the game. One thing he told me early on, he said you work very hard when you’re trying to score points. He said look at the game like this: ‘If you score three buckets a quarter, how many points is that?’ I said 24. He said, ‘That’s right and you haven’t even worked hard yet to get to the free throw line. That’s the way you should look at the game.’
“He said, ‘The game should be easy for you because of the way you play the game with your ability,’ and that stuck with me my whole career.”
Hudson, who at 6-foot-5 could play guard and forward, averaged 20.2 points in his career. He spent 11 seasons with the Hawks and finished with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979.
His No. 23 was retired by the Hawks, joining Bob Pettit and Wilkins as the only other Hawks players so honored.
“His jersey is not retired for nothing,” Wilkins said. “Only three jerseys are up there, so you know he had to be a heck of a player to have his jersey hanging in that building.”
His No. 14 was retired by the University of Minnesota, where he was one of the school’s first black players.
Houston coach Kevin McHale, also from Minnesota, said every time he saw Hudson the two “talked Gopher basketball.”
“Lou could really shoot the ball,” McHale said. “Really good guy. Great guy. Great shooter. Had a good career.”
Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, who played against Hudson, called the former All-Star “a great shooter, great all-around player.”
Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon said he grew up watching Hudson play.
“Lou Hudson holds a special place in the Hawks family, in the hearts of our fans and in the history of our club,” Gearon said. “As a fan growing up with this team, I’m fortunate to say I was able to see almost every game Sweet Lou played as a member of the Hawks.
“He was an integral part of successful Hawks teams for over a decade, and is deservedly recognized with the ultimate symbol of his significance to the franchise with the number 23 hanging inside Philips Arena.”
Beginning with the 1969-70 season, Hudson averaged at least 24 points in five straight seasons. In his years with the Hawks, he averaged at least 20 points seven times. He set a career high with his 27.1 points per game in 1972-73.
He scored 57 points against Chicago on Nov. 10, 1969, matching the franchise record also set by Pettit and Wilkins.
Hudson was a first-round pick by St. Louis in 1966 and made the NBA all-rookie team. He missed part of his second season while serving in the Army.
Following the team’s move from St. Louis, he scored the first points for the new Atlanta team in 1968. He helped lead the Hawks to the 1970 Western Division championship.
Hudson, a native of Greensboro, N.C., is also a member of the North Carolina, Georgia and Atlanta sports halls of fame. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1966 even though he didn’t play college football.
Hudson suffered his first stroke in 2005 and later campaigned for the “Power to End Stroke” organization.
He is survived by his wife, Madeline (Mardi), his daughter, Adrienne, and his former wife, Bernadette.
AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.