|Jeff Teague’s game clinching basket in Game 5 of the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round Series against the Brooklyn Nets|
Do you believe? I believe!!! I wouldn’t say that phrase is the Atlanta Hawks motto looking back over the last three seasons, but whenever I hear Hawks Public Announcer Ryan Cameron utter those words, resonates with me. As a long-time Atlanta Hawks fanatic, that places things in a perspective on what’s going on in the city of Atlanta and with the Hawks organization as well.
Although we’re headed in the right direction, I’ll be honest with you. Growing up supporting Atlanta teams, this city is considered one of the fair weather cities when it comes to supporting the three major sports franchise that call our city their home. If the Hawks, Braves or Falcons are posting wins, we have arguably one of the best fan-bases around; however, when we’ve seen the franchise have rough times, many fans don’t show their support in the stands or as some would describe “Atlanta fans would jump ship.” Sadly, we’ve seen this mentioned several times by major networks such as ESPN, who actually ran a segment last season when the Falcons started 3-0 on “Where are Atlanta Falcons fans?
For example, if you are a fan of playing the popular EA Sports frachise “Madden NFL 16”, when you are playing with the Atlanta Falcons, they list the fans in the city as “fair weathered. For a video game to even describe some of the fans of a team that I love in a negative way is embarrassing; however, I am very proud of how the Atlanta Hawks have made a huge impact in the local communities.
In our nationally televised loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, ESPN analysts were attempting to call out the Atlanta fans by stating that they have only saw fans around the city support legitimate contenders. At one point in the broadcast, Hubie Brown said “Atlanta had so much success last season and it hasn’t carried over. As you can see, is only the 11th sellout and it’s far behind the number the Cleveland Cavaliers have sold out.” However, when you have a player on the level such as #23 (LeBron James), his name will generate sell-out home crowds alone.” Perception is big flaw we’ve seen in sports and the common perception from people outside of Atlanta is that our fans don’t care about the team. Looking at the attendance numbers this season, we’ve seen the Hawks endure a slight decline which is expected when you have a team that have endured some of the inconsistencies as the Atlanta Hawks have shown, especially before the All-Star Break.
|Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith dunks against the Boston Celtics during the 2008 NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Bob Rosatto)|
The Hawks were at an all-time high in attendance last year sitting at 17th in the league averaging 17,412 fans in attendance per game compared to this year, which has Atlanta ranked at 21st in the league avaeraging around 16,785 per game. For many fans who aren’t familar with the city of Atlanta and the Hawks organization, they would view those numbers with high criticism and wouldn’t think the organization was making any progress. Not so fast my friend, before the historic 2014-2015 season, the Atlanta Hawks spent a few seasons near the bottom of the league in attendance per home game. After finishing 18th in the 2009-10 season, the Atlanta Hawks slipped every season until the 60-win campaign last season. In 2011, the Hawks slipped to 22nd (15,648 per game), dropped to 23rd in 2012 (15,109 per game), after the Joe Johnson/Josh Smith era came to an end, the attendance fell to 26th in the league with (15,125 per game) and even during Coach Bud’s first season, Atlanta was the third worst team in attendance only ahead of Philadelphia and Milwaukee at (14,339 per game) For a 10 year stretch, the Hawks were one of the league’s worst teams in attendance and barely averaged 11,000/12,000 people per game as well.
|Al Horford’s game winner against the Washington Wizards in Game 5 of last year’s Semi-Finals|
The Hawks are making progress in the community and in return the fans are showing up supporting the team. I’m not from Atlanta, but I visit frequently being an Atlanta sports fan. During my previous visit for the Atlanta Falcons/ Indianapolis Colts game in November, as we were getting closer to the NFL Playoff Race with the Falcons still in playoff contention. While walking around in the city, the talk wasn’t about the football team, it was about the Atlanta Hawks and what they were doing and some of the fans I asked were excited to see what direction the team would go after our first Eastern Conference Finals appearance a year ago.
Hearing the excitement in local fans was a new experience for me because when I have asked about their feelings of the Hawks in past visits, I would receive a rude response such as “who cares, they won’t make it past the first round.” I can honestly say the Atlanta Hawks are on the rise with third-year head coach Mike Budenholzer leading the way. Another key factor for the Hawks progression is our principle owners and amazing ambassadors such as Al Horford, Mike Muscala, and Paul Millsap amongst other players for the Hawks and NBA. The Atlanta Hawks are doing something special people stay tuned. #TrueToAtlanta