How does the sports world view Atlanta Hawks fans? Senior Analyst for Bleacher Report Joye Pruitt quoted, “The Atlanta Hawks fans truly mirror their franchise—passionless and seemingly indifferent.” These words were quoted in an article labeled NBA Power Rankings: The Ten Worst Fan-bases in the NBA. Atlanta ranked 6th amongst the 30 NBA teams in 2012 with the worst fan base. It’s safe to say that times have indeed changed in the past two seasons. The franchise was valued at $316 million dollars in 2013, increased to $425 million dollars in 2014. Their current market value in 2015 has nearly doubled to $825 million dollars. It’s hard to fathom the reasoning behind why a team with no standout superstars, located in one of the NBA’s worst markets, could nearly double their worth in one year. The Atlanta Hawks recently became available on the market after their co-owner Bruce Levenson self-reported his inappropriate and offensive emails about African-American fans. In the midst of the Donald Sterling investigation regarding the Los Angeles Clippers and his racial slander about African-American players, Sterling decided to launch his own private investigation to show that other league owners had similar views. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin stated to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “Levenson’s email was discovered by the team after an internal investigation was launched following a separate racist remark by general manager Danny Ferry back in June.” A city who hasn’t witnessed a championship since the Atlanta Braves in 1995 could only bare to take any more doubt and still be considered loyal fans.
During the 2013-14 season the Atlanta Hawks were nothing less than mediocre. The team took a major setback when starting center Al Horford was forced to shut down his season after 29 games. Surprisingly, the Hawks manage to slip into an 8th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs facing off against number one-seeded Indiana Pacers. Atlanta battled to make it a seven game series only to face defeat. A stellar performance was delivered from Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague. As basketball fanatics would say “he put the team on his back.” Atlanta finished the 2013-14 season ranked 15th in both ppg (points per game) & points allowed per game. In regards fan involvement, Atlanta ranked 28th out of all 30 NBA teams in total fan turnout for the 2013-14 season (587,927.) To date, in their current season they have already gathered 545,222 fans in Phillips Arena, with an average of 17,038 fans per game -“ESPNNBA”. In case you were wondering, there are 8 home games left in the season, this should push the Hawks home game season attendance to little under 700,000 (681,526). The Hawks have secured a playoff berth and currently have a ten game lead over any other team in the Eastern Conference, putting them at first in the division (48-12). Atlanta became the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a calendar month at 17-0. So you question how a team struggling to find its winning ways could possibly be in this situation? TEAMWORK! Atlanta ranks second in APG (Assist Per Game) this season at 25.5 a game, and second in points allowed per game at 96.4. These are two of the three components that contribute to creating a successful team. The third component, the coach, in the case of the Hawks you still may be pondering who that is. Mike Budenholzer, a man who can walk the streets of downtown Atlanta and go un-noticed is the second year coach for the Hawks. Budenholzer, who coached this year’s Eastern Conference All-Star team, has become the final piece to the Hawks puzzle. Budenholzer was the Video Coordinator for Greg Popovich for two years in Golden State and then transferred with “Pop” to San Antonio until the 2013 season where he landed his first head coach job with the Hawks. It takes more than just being a Head Coach to formulate a bond with your players. Point guard Jeff Teague was quoted by MTV news saying “Me and him built a relationship when I seen him at the Drake concert.” A concert that took place in Atlanta Ga, just a month before preseason got underway.
DeMarre Carroll said “I actually went up there andhung out with him a little bit.” This experience showed Hawks players a different side of their coach that they haven’t witnessed before. A side that allowed them to relate to him on a more personal level. When you are facing adversity there are three things you have to overcome, public perception, daily fatigue, and division from within. The Hawks certainly have found a way to overcome all three.
Atlanta will more than likely end the season as the number one seed in the East. My predictions lead me to believe that the Hawks will make it to the Eastern Conference finals and square off against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I attest that the winner of this series will go on to win the NBA Finals in June. The Hawks will have a big off-season with changes to their management office’s and owner. Speculation for the new Hawks owner have been circulating around the nation with names such as, Rapper T.I, Atlanta Braves owner John Malone, Steve Kaplan, Hank Aaron and many more. As these are just speculations, it puts the city in panic because some owners are considering the Idea of moving the team to Seattle.