NEW YORK — Lou Hudson always will have a place in Hawks’ lore.
Known as “Sweet Lou,” he is one of three Hawks to have his number retired, part of a long list of accomplishments while playing for the organization. He even scored the first basket for the Hawks after the franchise relocated to Atlanta from St. Louis in 1968.
Hudson died Friday following a severe stroke that left the all-time Hawks great in grave condition. He was 69. Hudson suffered the stroke two weeks ago and spent time in an Atlanta hospital before being moved to hospice care until his death.
Hudson’s No. 23 is joined by Bob Pettit’s No. 9 and Dominique Wilkins’ No. 21 as the honored players to have their jersey numbers retired.
“Lou Hudson holds a special place in the Hawks family, in the hearts of our fans and in the history of our club,” Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon said in a statement released by the Hawks. “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. On behalf of the Hawks organization, I’d like to extend condolences to Lou’s family and friends.”
Hudson was drafted by the Hawks in the first round (No. 4 overall) of the 1966 draft. He played 11 of his 13 NBA seasons for the team. He was a six-time All-Star, being honored in consecutive seasons from 1967-68 to 1973-74. He spent his last two seasons with the Lakers after being traded Sept. 30, 1977. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward played 890 NBA games and averaged 20.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
“It’s not a shock because he’s been sick, but it’s a shock in the sense that he is gone,” Wilkins said. “It’s an unbelievable loss. He was a mentor to me when I first came into the league. I knew how good he was. A lot of young guys don’t know how good he was.”
In 730 games with the Hawks, Hudson averaged 22.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. His points-per-game average ranks fourth on the franchise’s all-time list. Hudson’s 16,049 career points with the Hawks ranks third on the franchise’s all-time list behind Wilkins and Pettit. He also shares the franchise single-game scoring record with 57 points against Chicago on Nov. 10, 1969. Wilkins reached the total twice and Pettit once.
Hudson moved to Utah following his playing career. He returned to Atlanta after he suffered a stroke in February 2005.
Hudson averaged 18.4 points as a rookie in St. Louis and was named to the All-rookie team in 1966. He missed part of the 1967-68 season while serving in the U.S. Army. He returned to the league as the Hawks relocated to Atlanta and scored the new franchise’s first basket Oct. 15, 1968. He led the Hawks to the Western Division championship in 1970.
Hudson, a native of Greensboro, N.C., also had his No. 14 retired by the University of Minnesota following his collegiate career. He was one of the first three black basketball players at the university.
He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. He was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. Hudson spent time as a Hawks radio broadcaster in the 1980s.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.