The Atlanta Hawks are an American professional basketball team based in Atlanta, Georgia. They are part of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Franchise history The first years The franchise was formed in 1946 as the National Basketball League’s Buffalo Bisons, playing at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, New York and featuring guard/forward and coach Deanglo King. However, on December 27, 1946 only thirteen games into their inaugural season owner Ben Kerner moved the team to Moline, Illinois, which at that time was part of an area known as the “Tri-Cities” (now the Quad Cities). Kerner renamed the team the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in reference to the Black Hawk War that was mostly fought in Illinois. The Blackhawks became one of the National Basketball Association’s 17 original teams after a merger in 1949 of the 12-year-old NBL and the three-year-old Basketball Association of America. The Blackhawks reached the playoffs in the NBA’s inaugural year, under the leadership of coach Red Auerbach. However, the following season, after the team drafted Bob Cousy and made the blunder of trading his rights to the Chicago Stags (who would later surrender him in a dispersal draft to the Boston Celtics after they folded), they failed to qualify for the postseason. In 1951, the franchise relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and became the Milwaukee Hawks. In 1953, the Hawks drafted Bob Pettit, 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 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 avenged 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 premier teams for the next decade. In 1960, under coach Ed Macauley, the team advanced to the Finals, but lost to the Celtics in another game seven thriller. The following year, with the acquisition of rookie Lenny Wilkens, the Hawks repeated their success, but met the Celtics in the Finals again and lost in five games. Relocation to Atlanta Logo 1970-1972 The next few years the Hawks remained contenders, every year advancing deep into the playoffs and also capturing several division titles. Despite the success, Kerner became wary of the now-aging 10,000-seat Kiel Auditorium. The Hawks occasionally played at the St. Louis Arena (mostly against popular opponents), but Kerner was not willing to move the team there full-time because it hadn’t been well-maintained since the 1940s. Kerner wanted a new arena to increase revenue. However, he was rebuffed by the city on several occasions. In 1968, the team was sold to Atlanta real estate developer Tom Cousins and former Georgia Governor Carl Sanders and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. While a new arena was being constructed, the team spent its first four seasons playing in Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Cousins’ firm soon developed the Omni Coliseum, a 16,500-seat, state-of-the-art downtown Atlanta arena, for the Hawks and the expansion Atlanta Flames hockey franchise, which opened in 1972 as the first phase of a massive sports, office, hotel and retail complex, most of which is now the CNN Center. The years after the move showcased a talented Hawks team, including Pete Maravich, and Lou Hudson. However, after this period of success, the Hawks experienced years of rebuilding. The rebuilding process appeared to be the right direction when they ended up with the 1st and 3rd picks overall in the 1975 NBA Draft. However, it took a turn for the worse when draft picks David Thompson and Marvin Webster both signed on with ABA franchises. Ted Turner’s Ownership Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner bought the team and hired Hubie Brown to become head coach (just as the Braves were the only Major League Baseball team in the Southeastern United States for many years, the Hawks for much of this period were the only NBA team in that region). In 1980, the Hawks finished with 50 wins and won the Central Division. In 1982, the franchise acquired superstar Dominique Wilkins and promoted Mike Fratello to head coach a year later. Due to sagging attendance, 12 home games during the 198485 season were played at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. The New Orleans games were paid for by Barry Mendelson for $1.2 million with the Hawks going 66 in Louisiana. “Pac-Man” Hawks logo (19721995) From 198589, 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. After several seasons of mediocrity, Lenny Wilkens was hired as head coach in 1993. In the 199394 season, coach Wilkens led the team to 57 victories, tying a team record. However, the team fell short again in the playoffs, losing to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern semis in six games. The season was also marred with the trading of Dominique Wilkins, who remains the franchise all-time leading scorer, for Danny Manning, who quickly left via free agency to Phoenix after the season ended. In 1995, coach Wilkens broke the record (previously held by coach Red Auerbach) for most victories by an NBA head coach with victory number 939. The Hawks had two 50+ win seasons in 1997 and 1998, as well as a 31-win campaign in the lockout-shortened 1999 season, but the Hawks never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. Hawks logo from 1995 to 2007. In 1999, the Hawks traded Steve Smith to Portland for Isaiah Rider and Jim Jackson. Smith had been one of the Hawks’ most popular players during the 1990s and had recently been awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his charitable endeavors. By contrast, Rider had a history of behavioral problems both on and off the court. Rider’s troubled conduct continued after his arrival in Atlanta. Rider missed the first day of training camp and was late for two games. After reports that he smoked marijuana in an Orlando hotel room during a January road trip, the league demanded that he attend drug counseling, and fined him a total of $200,000 until he agreed to go. When he showed up late for a March game, the Hawks released him. The Hawks later traded Jackson away the following season. The Smith/Rider trade sent the Hawks into a downward spiral; they would not return to the playoffs for nine years. In 2001, the Hawks drafted Spanish star Pau Gasol 3rd , but his rights were ceded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a trade involving Shareef Abdur-Rahim. In February 2004, the Hawks had the distinction of having NBA All-Star Rasheed Wallace play one game for the team. Wallace was traded from Portland to the Hawks along with Wesley Person for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau. In his lone game for the Hawks, Wallace scored 20 points, had 6 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists and a steal in a loss to the New Jersey Nets. After the game he was dealt to the Detroit Pistons in a three-way trade with the Boston Celtics. In turn, Detroit sent guard Bobby Sura, center Zeljko Rebraca, and a first-round draft pick to the Hawks. The Boston Celtics also sent forward Chris Mills to Atlanta to complete the deal. Atlanta Spirit LLC’s ownership In March 2004, the team was sold to a group of executives by the name of Atlanta Spirit LLC by Time Warner (who inherited the Hawks and Braves upon its merger with Turner Broadcasting in 1996), along with the Atlanta Thrashers pro ice hockey team, with which the Hawks share the Philips Arena, which replaced the Omni. After the change in ownership the Hawks still struggled. In the 200405 season, the Hawks were the league’s worst team with a mere 13 victories (five less than even the expansion Charlotte Bobcats and the struggling New Orleans Hornets). Despite their league-worst record, the Hawks only landed the number two pick in the 2005 NBA Draft (the first pick went to the Milwaukee Bucks). With the second pick, the Hawks selected Marvin Williams of the University of North Carolina. The previous year, the Hawks had drafted Josh Childress and Josh Smith. In the 2006 Draft, the Hawks selected former Duke star Shelden Williams with the fifth overall pick. In the summer of 2005, the Hawks completed a sign and trade deal with the Phoenix Suns to acquire Joe Johnson in return for Boris Diaw and two future 1st round picks. They also signed Zaza Pachulia from the Milwaukee Bucks. These changes occurred after an apparent power struggle between the owners for nearly three weeks before the moves were made. Unfortunately, while the power struggle over Johnson has been resolved, the ownership situation remains in flux, with litigation still ongoing. When the Golden State Warriors qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Hawks became the NBA team that had gone the most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. (Eight in a row, see Active NBA non-playoff appearance streaks). They also held the title for most consecutive 50-loss seasons (four) and the 2nd longest run (behind the Rochester/Cincinnati/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings) of not winning an NBA title (52 years). All of the franchise’s NBA Finals appearances and lone NBA championship took place when the team resided in St. Louis. Meanwhile, they have yet to advance beyond the second round of any playoff format in their entire Atlanta existence, which now spans 42 seasons.