What team drafted both Bob Cousey and Bill Russell? If you said the Boston Celtics you would be completely wrong, it was the Atlanta Hawks, or should I say the Tri-City Blackhawks.
The Atlanta Hawks, one of the original teams to join the NBA and did so in 1946.
The Hawks relocated to Atlanta in 1968 after spending time in St Louis(55-68), Milwaukee(51-55), Tri-cities(47-51), and Buffalo(46-47).
They have made the NBA finals a total of four times, but won their only title in 1958 after beating the Boston Celtics.
Drafting, than trading both Cousey and Russell is nothing new for the Hawks franchise, they have been one of the poorest drafting teams in NBA history. The Hawks have drafted only a handful of players that have gone on to be all-stars with the Hawks, the most notable being Bob Petit, Lou Hudson, and Pete Maravich. The other great Hawk, Dominique Wilkins was selected in 1983 by the Utah Jazz before being traded to Atlanta.
The Hawks had their best years in the late 50s and 60s, where from 56-61 they would make the NBA finals four times and they would make the division finals 13 times from 55-70. After those years it became a dark time for the Hawks, they have yet to return to the conference finals. The Hawks are also one of only eight NBA teams never to have a 60 win season, the other being recent expansion teams Charlotte, New Orleans, Memphis, Toronto, Minnesota, Cleveland, New Jersey, and Denver.
10 players who have played for the Hawks have made the Basketball hall-of-game, they include Petit, Maravich, and Wilkins, they also include other basketball greats such as Moses Malone, Cliff Hagen, Walt Bellamy, Connie Hawkins, Bob Houbregs, Ed Macauley, and Lenny Wilkens who is in there both as a player and a coach.
The most recognizable player for the Hawks in the Modern Era is Dominique Wilkins, who played for the Hawks from 1982 until he was traded to the Clippers in 1994. Wilkins helped the Hawks win 50 games four consecutive times in the mid 80s, and helped the Hawks to the playoffs nine times in his twelve years there. He also won the slam dunk contest twice, the most famous being his showdown with Michael Jordan in 1985. Wilkins is one of only five Hawks players with their jersey number retired, the others are Petit(#9), Hudson(#23), Jason Collier(#40), and owner Ted Turner(#17).|
Dominique Wilkins may be the most recognizable figure in Hawks history, but he wasn’t the most successful. The Most successful player in Hawk history was Bob Petit, who is the franchises only MVP(56,59), and was the NBA’s first two time MVP. Petit helped lead the Hawks to four NBA finals in five years, and the 1958 NBA championship, he is also one of the 50 greatest players and honor which escaped Wilkins.
In 1999 the Hawks became just the second #5 seed in playoff history to host a playoff series, the other being the 1994 Jazz, they Hawks hosted the playoff series because the #8 seed New York Knicks beat the #1 seed Miami Heat. The Hawks would go on to lose the series in a sweep, to date this is the last playoff series the Hawks have been involved in.
In recent years the Hawks have seen struggles both on and off the court. Since the shortened lockout year of 1998-99 the Hawks haven’t had a winning season once, they best record during that time was 35-47 in 2002-03. Off the court the Hawks have seen management issues, including the recent purchase of the team which has lead to many internal conflicts, and the team has seen tragedies involving its players. The first tragedy occurred in 2002 when guard DeMarr Johnson was involved in a series auto accident which left him sidelined for the entire season, than in 2005 center Jason Collier suddenly died because of an enlarged Heart. His death struck the Hawks and the entire NBA by surprise, and it lead to better testing for heart irregularities in the NBA.