The Atlanta Hawks: Upward Bound

One of the NBA’s most prominent basketball teams hails from the Peach State of the Georgia. Part of the southern division of the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks team owned by Bruce Levenson was formed in 1946 out of the midwest, and was originally named the Tri-Cities Blackhawks after the Illinois cities of Moline, Rock Island, and nearby Davenport, Iowa. Between the years of 1951 and 1968, the Blackhawks underwent relocation to both Milwaukee and St. Louis, changing their team name to the Hawks. In 1968, the team moved to its current home of Atlanta, Georgia.

The team’s only NBA championship win before moving to Georgia was in 1958 while in St. Louis. Winning the game was inevitable under the leadership of coaches Tom Heinsohn and Bill Sharman, featuring NBA Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Bob Petit. Numerous championship and team awards were earned since, including 4 conference titles (1957, 1958, 1960, and 1961) and 5 division titles (1970, 1980, 1987, 1994, and 2015).

Several years had passed in Atlanta when the team had encountered problems with game venues, but media mogul Ted Turner purchased the team in 1977 to avoid its relocation out of Georgia. Turner hired Coach Hubie Brown (NBA Coach of the Year, 1978), leading the team to their first division title. In 1996, Turner completed his merger with Time Warner, and his sports franchises were inherited in the transaction.

Atlanta Spirit LLC, a sports management and investment group, purchased the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team in 2004. The company was led by seven businessmen, including majority owner Bruce Levenson. Levenson, an astute businessman, received his education from both American University (Washington, D.C.) and Washington University (St. Louis). He is currently co-founder of United Communications Group, has held leadership roles with TechTarget, Inc., BIA Digital Partners II LP, and has written for the Washington Star and Observer Publishing.

Atlanta Spirit had an ongoing vision of reviving the team’s high standing in the Association after suffering a losing record for several years.The company decided to restructure the organization by employing new management and acquiring new players through trades and draft picks. As a result, the team emerged from its slump by making the playoffs for six consecutive seasons.

Game rivalry between teams has been a catalyst for large spectator turnout, and the Atlanta Hawks is no exception to the rule. For over half a century, the Boston Celtics have competed fiercely with the Atlanta Hawks since the team joined the NBA. Another rivalry between the Hawks and the Orlando Magic has existed since 2004 when Georgia-born players Dwight Howard and Josh “J-Smoove” Smith were signed.

The Atlanta Hawks is undergoing new team ownership by an investment group comprised of former NBA player Grant Hill, investment tycoon Antony Ressler, and aviation mogul Jesse Itzler. The deal was reached with Bruce Levenson and partners in early 2015 and is in the process of finalizing. The team has continued to be a dominant force to be reckoned with over the years, and the future remains promising.