Atlanta Hawks players such as Dominique Wilkins have proven that sometimes humans can fly. However, fewer fans are probably familiar with “Pistol Pete,” “Sweet Lou,” and the “Tri-Cities Blackhawks.” Learning about the history of the Atlanta Hawks can help us to appreciate its modern squad better.
Did you know that today’s Atlanta Hawks began as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks? In the first year of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Blackhawks became one of the basketball league’s first 17 teams. The three cities that the Blackhawks represented included:
o Davenport, Iowa
o Moline, Illinois
o Rock Island, Illinois
Future famed Celtics coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach helped to lead the team to a regular season record of 28-36 (1949-1950), and a journey to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks lost in the first round.
At the start of the 1951-1952 season, the Blackhawks moved to the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to shedding two cities, they also shed the first syllable of their team name, to become simply the “Hawks.” Although the team had a new city, a new name, and a new arena, they finished the season with a disappointing 17-49 record.
After three more losing seasons, the Hawks owner, Ben Kerner, decided to move the squad to St. Louis, Missouri. In their first season in St. Louis, the Hawks added some key players, including Bob Pettit, who became the Hawks’ most valuable player (1955-1956). Atlanta finished in second place in the Western Division, with a 33-39 record. The Hawks won the division semi-finals series, but fell to the Fort Wayne Pistons 3-2 in the division finals series.
The Hawks moved to Atlanta, their current home, prior to the 1968-1969 season. While the Hawks reached the Western Division Finals, they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Throughout the squad’s entire history, they have won four conference titles (1957, 1958, 1960, and 1961). They also won one NBA championship in 1958, as the St. Louis Hawks.
Throughout its history, the Hawks franchise has retired four players’ jersey numbers:
Jason Collier-Center (2003-2005)
Collier played in the NBA from 2000-2005. He was the 15th overall pick during the NBA Draft in 2000, and during his career averaged 5.6 points each game. In 2005, Collier died suddenly during the off-season, due to an abnormal heart rhythm.
Lou Hudson-Forward/Guard (1966-1977)
Fans referred to Lou Hudson as “Sweet Lou,” due to his graceful and accurate jump shot. During his professional basketball career, Hudson scored 17,940 points in 13 seasons. He also was an NBA All-Star during six seasons.
Bob Pettit-Forward (1954-1965)
Pettit played his entire NBA career with the Hawks. He won the 1955 NBA “Rookie of the Year” award. Pettit holds the top NBA All-Star Game rebounding total of 27 (1962).
Dominique Wilkins-Forward (1982-1994)
Nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film,” Wilkins became famous for his dunks. Wilkins was on nine NBA All-Star teams, and twice won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Today, the Atlanta Hawks continue to fly high. Cheer on Atlanta’s favorite birds, with the wide variety of Atlanta Hawks merchandise available.