Atlanta Sports Franchises: Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA HAWKS

NBA Championships: 1 (1958)

Retired Numbers: # 9 Bob Petit, #17 Ted Turner, #21 Dominique Wilkins, #23 Lou Hudson, #40 Jason Collier

The Hawks franchise was formed in 1946 as the NBL’s Buffalo Bison, and then moved quickly to Illinois, where they were renamed the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. The Blackhawks became one of the NBA’s original 17 teams after the 1949 merger with the NBL. In 1951, the team moved yet again to Milwaukee, where they were renamed the Hawks.

After a brief stay after Milwaukee, the team moved to St. Louis, which was the location of their lone championship season, coming in 1958 in a 4-2 series win over the Celtics. After that, the Hawks set up camp permanently in Atlanta in 1968. The years of transition did not seem to phase the Hawks, as the years after the move showcased a very talented squad, including big names such as Pete Maravich and Lou Hudson.

After a few seasons dubbed as “transitional,” real change came around again under the hands of Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, who purchased the team in 1979. In the 1979-1980 season, the Hawks finished 50-32, and won the Central Division. In 1982, the successes continued to roll as the program acquired superstar Dominique Wilkins, who remains the franchise all-time leading scorer.

From 1985-89, the Hawks continued to roll, staking claim as one of the league’s elite, winning 50 games or more each season. However, the team could not seem to advance past the semifinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing to eventual conference and NBA champs in Detroit and Boston.

The 90’s saw ups and downs for the Hawks, as coach Lenny Wilkens took reign of the team enroute to breaking the record for most victories by an NBA head coach with win number 939 in 1995. However, the 90’s were marred in the eyes of most fans due to the loss of Wilkins, and the team’s loss to the Pacers in the Eastern semis in the 1993-94 season. In 1999, team and city favorite Steve Smith, lauded for his popularity on and off the court, was traded to Portland in exchange for Jim Jackson and notorious deviant Isaiah Rider. Rider had a known history of behavioral problems, and his stay in Atlanta was no different. He missed the first day of training camp, was late for two games, and allegedly was caught smoking marijuana in his hotel room on a road trip. Needless to say, the Smith/Rider trade debacle sent the Hawks franchise into a downward spiral, as they would not return to the playoffs for nine seasons.

In the 2000’s, things started to look up, as the team was sold in 2004 to a group of execs by the name of the Atlanta Spirit, who owned the Thrashers, and also received the Braves by inheritance from the Time Warner purchase from Turner Broadcasting in 1996. In 1994 as well, All-Star Rasheed Wallace graced the team with his presence for one game, before being traded to Detroit in a three-way trade with Boston. The Hawks began to struggle once again, winning only 13 games in the 2004-05 season, but still only landing the number two pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, in which they selected Tar Heel Marvin Williams. In the 2006 Draft, they selected former Dukey Shelden Williams with the fifth overall pick.

In 2007, the Warriors qualified for the playoffs, giving the Hawks the distinction of being the MBA team to go the most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. After the 2007 season, high hopes were in order in Atlanta, as they selected Florida’s Al Horford as a third overall pick in the draft. Horford’s rookie campaign was a stellar one, as he averages a double-double, and was a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie first team. 2008 was a turnaround point for the Hawks, as they clinched their first playoff berth, by winning all three games against the Celtics in Phillips Arena before falling in four straight in Boston.

2009 saw the Hawks’ first winning season since 1998-99, as they beat the Miami Heat in the first round of playoffs before falling to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference semis. The off-season proved to be more than beneficial in replenishing the roster (and subsequently the hope and redemption of Hawks fans), as Jamal Crawford, Wake’s Jeff Teague, and Marvin Williams all joined the ranks in Hot-lanta.

The 2010 season gave the Hawks the opportunity to earn their third straight playoff berth, and they did just that. The Hawks defeated the Bucks in seven games, but went on to lose to the Magic in a four game sweep. This season, however, the Hawks are seeking revenge, as they currently hang atop the Magic in standings. Check in tomorrow as we cover the current dealings in Hawks news!

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About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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