The origins of the Atlanta Hawks can be traced to the Buffalo Bisons franchise, which was founded in 1946. The Bisons were a member of the National Basketball League and played their games at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The franchise only lasted 38 days in Buffalo. The Bisons were then moved to Moline, Illinois and the name changed to the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. In 1949 the Blackhawks became one of the National Basketball Association's 17 original teams after a merger of the 12-year-old NBL and the three-year-old Basketball Association of America (BAA). They reached the playoffs in the NBA's inaugural year under the leadership of coach Red Auerbach.
The team was moved to Milwaukee after its first season, and the name was shortened to the Milwaukee Hawks. They remained in Milwaukee until 1955, when they moved to St. Louis, right after drafting future NBA MVP, Bob Pettit. In 1958, after tallying their first winning record, they again advanced to the Finals, where they avenged their defeat against the Celtics from the previous year, winning the series 4–2 and giving the Hawks their first and only NBA Championship. Bob Pettit scored 50 points in the final game of the series. The Hawks remained one of the NBA's premier teams for the next decade.
Owner Ben Kerner made several attempts to get the city to build a new arena, that could fit more people, but he was unable to come to an agreement with the city. He sold the Hawks to Tom Cousins and former Georgia governor Carl Sanders in 1968 and the team was moved to Atlanta. Cable network entrepreneur and Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner bought the team in 1977 and hired Hubie Brown to become the head coach. The Hawks were the only NBA team in the Deep South, just as the Atlanta Braves were the only Major League Baseball team in the region for many years to come. Turner's ownership was instrumental in keeping both teams in the region. On March 31, 2004, the team was sold to a group of executives by the name of Atlanta Spirit LLC  by Time Warner
The Hawks two major rivalries are with the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. The Celtics–Hawks rivalry is a rivalry in the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association that has lasted for over five decades, although the two teams have played each other since the 1949–50 season when the then-Tri-Cities Blackhawks joined the NBA. The two teams have faced each other eleven times in the NBA Playoffs, four times in the NBA Finals, with the Celtics winning ten of twelve series against the Hawks, including three out of four NBA Finals. The Hawks and the Orlando Magic have an intense rivalry, mostly stemming from playoff competitions and the rising stardom of Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, both from the 2004 NBA draft and who were both raised in Georgia.
Cover image by Erik Drost on Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.