Last night, I was able to attend a sold out Hawks vs. Cavaliers game which might not sound like that big of a deal. The Hawks, who are sitting well in first place in the Eastern Conference, are now selling out every game that they host inside the Philips Arena. Why shouldn’t they be? In just the last 48 games alone the team has only lost 6 of those. They are a team that is on fire.
While some were predicting this game to be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals, the game had a different importance to Atlanta. A halftime ceremony for Dominique Wilkins was held as the “Human Highlight Film” took the center of the court. His speech was not centered around himself, but to the fans of Atlanta. “Even though I’m not from Atlanta, I’m from Atlanta,” Wilkins said during halftime, holding back tears. “We do play basketball in this city. You keep rooting for our team.”
To go along with the night, the shirts were placed on every seat in the arena with a throwback jersey design and Wilkins’ number and name on it. Outside the Philips ‘Nique’s statue stands permanently in front of the ticket booths. The statue was crowded all throughout the night as people took pictures with the bronze giant.
Every fan will have this shirt waiting for them tomorrow night: pic.twitter.com/wSiASuXbXS
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) March 5, 2015
But this wasn’t always the case in Atlanta. Teams who have left our arena this year with a loss have even mentioned that. “Their home crowd has gotten better,” Thunder’s Kevin Durant said. “I guess they’ve jumped on the bandwagon. The crowd was great tonight. They helped them out.” So why are there fans now?
The Hawks are in first place in the Eastern Conference and lead the league right now (with only a 1 game lead over Golden State) with a win percentage of .803. This season alone, they broke their winning streak record of 14 and changed that number to 18. After 60 games, this is the most successful the team has ever been in franchise history! The sudden power that this team has created has fans going wild. Something we have not seen in a while.
With teams such as the Braves and Falcons, the Atlanta Hawks along with the Thrashers really took a backseat when it came to sports in the city. While they did have fans it was never anything to the extent of the our baseball and football teams. There is a lot of scrutiny over the fan base in Atlanta and a lot of the problems has to come from our city being so great. Atlanta is one of the top 10 cities that people are moving to per CNN. These people are staying true to their own teams even though they moved to the city of Atlanta. We might be densely populated, but that does not mean that most of these people are from here. But like any rule, there are always exceptions.
While Hawks’ fans are taking heat for jumping on the bandwagon where can we draw the line? For example, if someone was from Atlanta who enjoys the Braves and Falcons, but took little to no notice of the Hawks, started buying tickets this year do we consider them a fair-weather fan or are they riding the bandwagon? Hopefully a few years from now the Atlanta Hawks will stay a contender for the finals and so far they have been. With this season’s playoffs clinched, the Hawks have now been to the playoffs 8 seasons in a row, but Atlanta has not taken much notice until now. The Hawks stay true to Atlanta, but will Atlanta stay true to the Hawks? Tell us what you think in the comments!