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Atlanta Hawks History

The Atlanta Hawks have won one champion ship in 1958, won four conference titles 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1961, and won 14 divisional titles.

The franchise has had five name changes and moved four times. The franchise was formed in 1946 as Buffalo Bisons in the National Basketball League. After only thirteen games into their inaugural season—owner Ben Kerner moved the team to Moline, Illinois (At that time, the area was known as the “Tri-Cities” (Moline, Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport Iowa converged at the Mississippi River, today the area is known as the Quad Cities), Owner Ben Kerner renamed the team the Tri-Cities Blackhawks; the Blackhawks were named after the Black Hawk War that was fought in Illinois.

mostly fought in Illinois. The Blackhawks became one of the National Basketball Association’s 17 original teams after the 1949 merger of the 12-year-old NBL and the three-year-old Basketball Association of America. The Blackhawks reached the playoffs in the NBA’s first year; under the legendary coach red Auerbach.

In 1951, the franchise relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and became the Milwaukee Hawks. In 1953, the Hawks drafted Bob Petit, a future NBA MVP. Despite this, the Hawks were one of the league’s worst teams, and in 1955 the Hawks moved yet again, this time to St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1957, the team advanced to the NBA Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics in a double-overtime thriller in game seven. In 1958, the Hawks again advanced to the NBA Finals where they revenged their previous year’s defeat against the Boston Celtics, winning the series 4-2. Bob Pettit scored 50 points in Game 6 in front of a crowd of 10,218 in St. Louis. The victory gave the Hawks their first and only NBA Championship. The Hawks remained one of the NBA’s best teams for the next decade.

In 1960, under coach Ed Macauley, the team advanced to the Finals yet again, but lost—again to the Celtics—in yet another game seven thriller. The following year, with the acquisition of rookie Lenny Wilkins, the Hawks repeated their success, but met the Celtics in the Finals again and lost in five games.

In 1968 the team was sold to real estate developer Ton Cousins and former Atlanta Governor Carl Sanders, they moved the team to Atlanta. The team spent the next four years playing at Georgia Tech waiting for the new arena to be completed. The first years in Atlanta showcased the talents on the legendary Pistol Pete Marovich and Lou Hudson. In 1976 Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves, bought the franchise and hired Hubie Brown as coach.

In 1982 the Atlanta Hawks draft Dominique Wilkins and that marked the beginning of the history in Atlanta.

From 1985–89, the Hawks were among the league’s elite, winning 50 games or more each season. However, the team could not advance past the semifinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing to eventual Eastern conference and/or NBA champions in Boston and Detroit.

Those teams were lead by the most recognized faces in Hawks history. The 1985-1986 Hawks entered the season with rookies Jon Koncak and Spud Webb. The Hawks were transformed into one of the youngest teams in the NBA. The Hawks were led by “the Human Highlight Reel” Dominique Wilkins.

He would have an outstanding year as he led the NBA in scoring with an average of 30.3 points per game. One of the highlights of the season came when Spud Webb (measuring five feet, seven inches) won the NBA Slam Dunk contest during All-Star Weekend. In the second half of the season, the Hawks would be one of the strongest teams in the league.

The club won 35 of their final 52 games to finish the season with a record of 50 wins and 32 losses. In the playoffs, the Hawks would eliminate the Detroit Pistons in 4 games. In the 2nd round, the Boston Celtics in 5 games would defeat the Hawks. With the same roster the Hawks won the division a year later, beat the Indiana Pacers in the first round and lost to the Pistons in the Conference Championship.

Again the Hawks had a repeat performance in 1988 playoffs winning the first round and losing in the second round. Following the 1989 season the Hawks began to slide and they were no longer a dominant team. The team was sold to the Spirit Group in 2004. In 2005 they were the worst team in the NBA. There are signs of hope as the Hawks have returned to a playoff team and with a young and talented roster can compete with the powerhouse teams of the NBA.



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