Dan Roundfield was a special player

sports@macon.comAugust 7, 2012 

Sometimes the teams you first watch as a kid are the ones that stick with you your entire life. I’m really bad about that for some reason. In a way, I can tell you as much about the Atlanta Braves, Falcons and Hawks from the late 1970s as I can tell you about today’s teams.

I always love to rattle off the names of the 1978 Braves. That was Bobby Cox’s first year as Atlanta’s manager, and the Braves were not very good. They were horrible, really. But we got good WTCG on the cable that year, and as an 8-year-old, I got hooked.

It didn’t take long for the Falcons to become my favorite team. Growing up in Waycross, we used to get a lot of Miami Dolphins games on television. But the Falcons were the state team, so that became my team. The most emotional loss of my life as a sports fan was the Dallas game in 1981. Falcons fans know what I’m talking about.

And then there were the Hawks. They were also on Channel 17, with Skip Caray calling the games. They had Hubie Brown as the head coach and a starting five that will be cemented in my mind forever.

They had Eddie Johnson at point guard, Armond Hill at shooting guard, Tree Rollins at center, John Drew at small forward and Dan Roundfield at power forward.

Roundfield died Monday. He drowned off the Caribbean island of Aruba while helping his wife as she struggled in rough water. He was only 59 years old.

I got a chance to meet Roundfield when he would come to Macon for Jaime Kaplan’s charity event. Kaplan told me Tuesday that Roundfield had been coming since 1991 and had never missed a year.

Each time I interviewed Roundfield I was like a kid in a candy store. He was still a mountain of a man, and I still pictured him with that Pac-Man Hawks uniform. The stories he told were always great.

Roundfield played only six years in Atlanta. He wasn’t a Karl Malone or a Hall of Famer, but he was a three-time All-Star. Roundfield usually scored about 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds a game for the Hawks.

When he was traded, I thought the air was taken out of my lungs. How in the world could Hawks general manager Stan Kasten trade Roundfield for some guys named Antoine Carr and Cliff Levingston?

The fact is if I hadn’t been a kid who just loved Roundfield for being one of my favorites, I would have realized it was actually a pretty good trade. The Hawks were moving on, into the Dominique Wilkins era. They had drafted Kevin Willis, a younger power forward they wanted to pair with Wilkins. It made sense, but not to a kid who had a poster of Roundfield on the wall.

As kids, that’s what we all did. We idolized players we saw on television, and when we got into the back yard to play, we pretended to be them. For me, when I threw a football, I was Steve Bartkowski. When I played baseball, I threw the knuckleball like Phil Niekro and pretended to hit like Dale Murphy and Bob Horner.

And when I played basketball, I wanted to be like Roundfield.

I hope the kids today do the same thing. And I hope professional players realize how much they mean to young kids who watch them. There’s just something about those players you like as a kid, compared to just following players when you grow up.

He might not have been a Josh Smith, but Roundfield was a good player, and he helped the Hawks enjoy some pretty decent seasons in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But for me, he was just one of my favorites.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on twitter@yahoo.com.

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