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Time to Debunk Another Myth About why the Hawks Can’t Make a Playoff Run

For one, today started with E!PN again proving they don’t require their employees to do any homework before talking as on Outside the Lines today both “contributors” referenced how no team had ever made the NBA finals after having never won a playoff series before. That’s probably true, and that’s good and fine. I just don’t know what relevance it has to the Atlanta Hawks though.

But enough of the ESPN nonsense, let’s just get straight to the meat and potatoes of this topic that both the mainstream media and the ignorant basketball fan alike point to. I think it goes without saying, there’s a correlation between the two.

So, the Hawks aren’t a viable contender to win the eastern conference because they’ve never been to the eastern conference finals before (I’m going to disregard the silliness spoken earlier on E!PN today) and thus, aren’t ready to make that jump. Okay, I might be willing to buy that. Despite having the second longest active playoff streak in the NBA, there’s been a sense of lack of accomplishment in the playoffs, and it’s warranted. Seven straight playoff trips have netted three playoff series victories and a 24-36 playoff mark. No, that’s nothing to write home about, so I can understand some of the playoff skeptics.

Of course, I’m assuming that means all the other eastern conference contenders though in fact boast a healthy playoff resume that indicates they’re clearly right there, ready to make the next step, right? Let’s go in order and take a look.

The number two team in the east is the Toronto Raptors, and I don’t hear much about how they can’t advance in the playoffs due to their lack of success, so I presume we’re going to find plenty of it.

Looking…..

Still looking………….

This is the 20th year of Toronto Raptor basketball. In their entire existence they have won a grand total of ONE playoff series. ONE. And that was fourteen years ago. In the subsequent thirteen seasons since then, they’ve won a total of EIGHT playoff games. Yes, GAMES. Eight playoff games in thirteen season. The Hawks have won three times as many in roughly half the time since then.

Again, nineteen completed NBA seasons. One playoff series victory. I’ll just leave it at that with Toronto.

So moving down the list we get to Chicago. One of the two media darlings. I’m sure they’ve got to have bevy of playoff success to prove how battle tested and ready they are.

Wait, you mean to tell me that since Jordan nailed a jumper over Byron Russell, the Chicago Bulls in the 16 years since have managed to win a grand total of FOUR playoff series. They win one playoff series every four years. See, I thought the Hawks weren’t a legit contender because they’ve haven’t proven themselves in the playoffs. I’m sorry, what exactly have the Bulls done?

Want to look more recently? Okay, sure. Let’s go back to when Noah and Horford were each drafted. They’re the longest tenured players on these two teams, and both entered the league together. Surely since then the Bulls have accomplished far more in the playoffs than the Hawks have. Hmmmmm, this is also puzzling….. seems since then the Bulls have won those four aforementioned playoff series. That would be one more than the Hawks have won in the same time frame, for those of you counting at home. Yes, the Bulls have a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, but they’ve also had the same number of seasons where they failed to reach the eastern conference quarterfinals. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I’m confused about where people are seeing this vast increase in playoff success from Chicago.

So, next one on the list is the Washington Wizards.

Oh, this one is fun.

Remember, the Hawks have made the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons. The Wizards have appeared in the playoffs six times……. Over the past twenty-six season. Yes, you read that correctly. Six playoff trips in 26 years. I’m guessing then certainly they must have recent success, perhaps some deep playoff runs that enables people to overlook their lack of playoff success and consider them a contender, right?

While the Hawks have been on their seven-year streak of making the playoffs, Washington has qualified for the postseason twice. And won one playoff series. So much for that.

In fact, over the past 35 years of NBA playoffs, the Washington Wizards have won three playoff series. You know, the same number Atlanta has won in the past six years.

Since 1988, Washington has won all of fourteen postseason basketball games. Clearly, far more successful postseason team than Atlanta.

So now we get to Cleveland, the team everyone thinks is the pick to win the conference, and on talent alone, they’re probably right. However, since people want to use the playoff argument so fast to dismiss the Hawks, we can’t pick and choose where to apply it.

So we’re talking about a team who has spent four consecutive years without even being IN the playoffs. Two of their three biggest stars on the team have NEVER been in the NBA playoffs, and one, hasn’t played a postseason game since he was in high school. And just to throw a little more gas on the fire, in the past six seasons, they’ve won as many playoff series as the Atlanta Hawks have. So, yeah, Cleveland is playoff tested alright.

And finally, due to their proximity to others listed as contenders in the standings, there’s an obligation to include the Bucks. Then you see that they haven’t won a single playoff series since 2001….

I take no issue with questioning the Hawks playoff credentials, and wondering if they have the mettle to take the next step in the post season. I have no qualms with that whatsoever. But it seems the Hawks are the only ones being questioned about that. Despite the fact that of the contenders in the eastern conference, no team has a playoff resume that reads much better than theirs, and a couple read significantly worse.

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Enough About “Bandwagon” Hawks Fans, Hypocrites

If you’re a Hawks fan I’m sure you’ve heard it enough to make you want to scream, you’ve probably been accused of being one, and you may very well be one, but enough is enough. I’ve had it with these fans of opposing teams chastising the city of Atlanta, the Hawks, and their fans, for being such “bandwagon” fans. I’m not saying this team doesn’t have plenty. News flash, EVERY winning team has bandwagon fans. It’s how it works. But to see these people sit up on their high horse as though they’re some sort of superior fan base has finally grasped at the last straw.

It’s time to set the record straight with some of these people. Granted, the truth may cause some to go into deep depression as it’s become very clear in my dealings with NBA fans that many, MANY, draw all of their sense of self worth from who their favorite basketball team is. It seems to be who defines them, as though being a fan of a select group of teams makes them a valuable person, even a superior person, especially to those who root for lesser peons on the NBA totem poll. Another news flash, you’re no better than us. At all.

We’re just going to forget that in the 1982-1983 & 1983-1984 seasons the almighty Chicago Bulls drew a grand total of 562,000 fans. TOTAL. For 82 home games. That’s an average of 6,854 a game. The year before His Airness arrived in the Windy City, the Bulls got a staggering 6,300 people a game in to watch them play. Right, only the Hawks have ever had attendance issues. From the Bulls 1966 entry into the league, until the final year B.MJ. they averaged 11,000 or more fans a game only twice in their history. In fact they averaged under 8,000 fans on six occasions. One third of their years of existence they couldn’t draw 8,000 fans a night. But yes, tell me more about how horrible Atlanta fans are.

Cleveland fans are even worse. The year before Lebron James was drafted the Cavaliers drew 11,496 fans a night. Do you know the last time the Atlanta Hawks drew that few? The 1985-1986 season. But the embarrassment doesn’t end their for Cleveland, oh no, it gets better. The 1982-1983 Cavaliers drew under 4,000 people a game. Yes, under 4,000. For a professional sports team. In the 80s. But I love hearing Cavs fans (who half were Heat fans a year ago) talk to me about poor fan support from Hawks fans, and about how they suddenly appeared out of nowhere. From the beginning of the 1980 season thru the conclusion of the 1984 regular season, Cleveland TOTALED 829,644 fans. For FOUR full seasons. Perspective? They drew more than that just in Lebron’s final season during his first tour of duty in Cleveland. But of course, all those Cavs fans showing up then were such life long fans who’d been supporting the team for decades, right?

Three times in a six year stretch in the early to mid 90s the Dallas Mavericks failed to draw 600,000 fans. More perspective? The Hawks haven’t missed that mark in a decade, the exception being the lockout season where they only played 33 home games, and the math indicating they would have surpassed 600,000 in that season as well.

Even a basketball hotbed like Detroit isn’t immune. Remember what they were before Isaiah Thomas showed up? They were so bad Isaiah adamantly didn’t want to be there, and for good reason. To that point the Pistons had only drawn 330,000 fans over a season once in their entire Detroit existence, and in 1980-1981 averaged a paltry 5,569 a night.

As recently as 2001-2002 the Houston Rockets were getting under 11,800 fans a game. Again, a number lower than anything the Hawks have drawn in almost 30 years, since the 1985-1986 season.

The 2007-2008 Pacers only averaged 12,221 a game. Again, since 1986, the Hawks have only had two seasons with poorer turnout than that.

And the Clippers? Don’t even get me started. They actually had an NBA franchise in the city of Los Angeles that couldn’t draw even 10k a night in the late 90s….. But they want to talk about Phillips Arena and how empty it has been in the past? Okay.

The Grizzlies have twice in the past 8 years drawn under 13,000. That’s something the Hawks have not done since 2002-2003.

The year the New Jersey Nets made their first of back to back NBA Finals appearances they drew under 14,000 a night. They had a winning product and still couldn’t put butts in seats. But only the Hawks have this problem, I know.

Keep in mind that the Atlanta Hawks have not been under 15,000 a game since the 2004-2005 season. Now consider that Philadelphia has been under that mark in five of the last eight seasons.

From 1982 thru 1988 the San Antonio Spurs never drew over 9,800 fans a night. In fact, the Spurs franchise didn’t crack the 12,000 a game mark until the 1989-1990 season. But I’m sure all the Spurs fans today were diehards through the 80s, right?

The point of this piece wasn’t to try and defend Hawks fans, or to make them seem like the greatest fans the world has ever known. Not at all. The point was simply to point out the hypocrisy coming out of the mouths of fans from other teams who are so quick to lambaste and ridicule the Hawks based on a lack of recent fan support. I’ve already touched on the reasons for such a lack of support, and the consistently filled arena currently speaks to a forgiveness from the city that was two decades coming. But the point still remains, these other fans should probably refrain from throwing stones from glass houses.

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Two Decades Later, Hawks Have Won Fans Back

Not just the logo feels like old times in Atlanta, the excitement, the fun, and the crowd support is back where it once was in Atlanta.

Not just the logo feels like old times in Atlanta, the excitement, the fun, and the crowd support is back where it once was in Atlanta.

A lot has been made about the attendance in Atlanta in recent years, and the lack of fan support. So without trolling, without looking for an argument, let me try to explain to those of you who don’t know any better (not saying that in a bad way, just that you simply don’t know) what the Hawks are up against and why in this regard.

In the 80s sports in Atlanta were absolutely God-awful. Except for the Hawks. The Braves and Falcons sucked, and the Flames left and went on to immediate success in Calgary. What we had, was the Hawks. And Dominique. Unfortunately, we were good in an era in the East that included the dominance of Bird’s Celtics, Jordan’s rise, and the Bad Boys. That’s a really hard trio to break through against, though we were damn close in 1988.

In any event, the Hawks were the primary attraction in Atlanta from a pro sports standpoint, no question. But as the 80s turned into the 90s a couple of things happened. One, Georgia Tech basketball became a consistent winner, making the Final Four. The Georgia Tech football team won a national championship. Deion Sanders kinda surpassed Dominique as the star athlete in the city, though, probably still not as loved and embraced, and the Atlanta Braves suddenly became a very relevant, world championship contending baseball team.

These things alone took some shine off the Hawks but it was the 1991-1992 season in particular where things began unraveling. Georgia Tech spent the spring in Denver in the Final Four. The Braves were fresh off their trip to the World Series, the Falcons had gone 10-6 and beaten the Saints on the road in a playoff game and had M.C. Hammer on the sidelines and Deion on the team grabbing headlines. The Hawks were losing their grip on the Atlanta sports scene.

It was January, 28th, 1992 and the Hawks were playing the Philadelphia 76ers. They won that game by a point to move to 22-20.  But more important than the single win, in the very big picture, they lost. They lost Dominique Wilkins to a torn achilles tendon and he was out for the year. It turns out, in addition to what this did to the 1992 season, it set the stage for something far worse just two years later. In 1992, they went just 16-24 the rest of the way and suffered their first losing season since 1985. Really, the Hawks haven’t recovered from that until now.

That’s because in February of 1994 they made a decision that forever tainted them to many Atlanta fans and natives. They made a decision that to this day, some still deem unforgivable.

On February 23, the Hawks beat the then 37-13 (tied for the best record in basketball with eventual champion Houston) Seattle Supersonics 99-92, to move to 36-16, which tied them with New York (eventual loser in 7 games to Houston in the NBA Finals) for the best record in the eastern conference.

Dominque Wilkins scored 24 points that day, right at his season average. He never scored another point in a Hawk uniform. The next day he was traded to the Clippers. For Danny friggin Manning. The greatest Atlanta Hawk, and the leader of perhaps the greatest Atlanta Hawk team in history, a guy who had played in college just up the road in Athens and had been THE only bright spot in Atlanta sports for so long, was traded. No, he didn’t sign elsewhere, he didn’t get in legal trouble, he was TRADED.

It took a long time for fans to forgive the organization from robbing us of a chance at an NBA title and shipping off Atlanta's biggest sports star.

It took a long time for fans to forgive the organization for robbing us of a chance at an NBA title and shipping off Atlanta’s biggest sports star.

The Hawks went on to win 57 games and win the division and capture the number one overall seed. But the team wasn’t the same. The fans weren’t the same. The city wasn’t the same.

Keep in mind, at this point, the city of Atlanta was still without a championship, and was still starving for one. The 1994 Atlanta Hawks had a legitimate chance to bring that championship to Atlanta, and management destroyed it. To many, they stole our chance at a championship, and that’s not something that is easily forgiven.

Wilkins had averaged 24.4 pts and 6.2 reb per game during the 93-94 season. His replacement, Manning only put up 15.7 and 6.5 rebounds. Predictably, the Hawks were a shell of themselves on offense against the 5th seeded Pacers in the 2nd round. A team who had averaged over 101 a game in the regular season was held to 88 or fewer in 5 of their six games, as they bowed out in six.

The Hawks haven’t won a division title since. Nor have they been any closer to reaching the eastern conference finals.

Within six years of this boneheaded front office decision the Hawks were losing 54 games. Meanwhile, the Braves had won a World Series by then and the Falcons had played in a Super Bowl. The Hawks had lost the city. Not only had they lost it, they’d made the city their enemy. There was distrust, on top of a lack of entertainment value due to ineptitude that seeped in as the 21st century began. And of course, there was betrayal.

So even when the team got back to mediocre, and ascended even above that to again above average, the fans weren’t flocking back. Would they show up for the playoffs? Of course, ask KG about the 2008 series against the Celtics. But they weren’t going to buy in emotionally, or financially.

The hurt ran too deep, and hurt too much. The dysfunction of the Atlanta Spirit group on top of the betrayal and hurt from 1994 made the Atlanta Hawks, arguably, the most difficult sell in American sports.

But they’ve finally found a way to do it. They put a good team on the floor, one with likable players, and a style that’s fun to watch. In fact, the on court product is so good, it has even been enough to overshadow to a good extent the issues behind closed doors with management and the team being for sale.

The Hawks were worse than a dumpster fire in the 2000s. They were a dumpster fire that NOBODY was paying any attention to, and as a result, nobody was attempting to put it out, and nobody cared if it did get put out.

That’s not to say there weren’t fans. There were countless fans like myself who watched constantly on TV, and if they didn’t watch every game, they knew every night whether they’d won or lost. They wouldn’t spend money on tickets, but they’d take up the offer of a free one. They loved their team, but they weren’t lining the pockets of backstabbing and bickering owners who excelled far more in dysfunction than putting a good basketball team on the floor.

Not only that, there just wasn’t anything to cheer about, or talk about. So it should be no surprise Hawks fans have been silent for 20 plus years. So sure, there are absolutely some new ones who have jumped on board, but they’re also a lot who are returning back to the franchise that they feel let them down and deserted them. There are also those who have been here from the days of the Pac-Man logo…. all the way through to its re-integration.

21 years later, maybe it’s come full circle. The old logo is back, and once again Dominique is part of the story as he serves on the television booth with Bob Rathbun, and nowhere will you find a more passionate duo covering their teams games. Not only that, the Braves and Falcons seem bent on returning to the basement of anonymity and irrelevance. The city is there for the taking, and the Hawks are doing just that.

So call the Hawks fans you see a bandwagoner if you must, but do so knowing the real story of fan apathy in Atlanta. Don’t do so just because ESPN tells you so, or because you saw a lot of empty seats in the building.

You can call me a bandwagoner all you want, in no way is that going to detract from the pure joy I get in watching this team excel, after years of being a joke, of being the laughing-stock of your jokes. The fact that now, the worst thing you can say about the Hawks is that they have too many bandwagon fans means we’re doing something right, FINALLY. And nothing you say is going to take away the enjoyment we Hawks fans are going to feel experiencing that.

Will this carry over into May and June? Who knows. We’ll find out in May and June. But we’re not going to not enjoy what’s happening now thinking about what may or may not happen in the future. We’ve waited too long for this, and been put through too much for this.

Who knows, maybe this is our time.

This organization owes us that much, and they’re finally giving it to us.

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The NBA Elite Are Afraid (At least their fans are)

NBA basketball fans are as bad as some college football fans when it comes to using who they pull for as a means of defining who they are as a person, and a means of using it to make themselves feel superior to others and better than them.

Fans of the NBA “elite” franchises, i.e. Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, any team Lebron is on or has been on, cannot stand to acknowledge that some teams outside that fraternity (which includes OKC, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, to an extent, you just don’t hear the annoying chirping and get the sense of superiority and arrogance that exudes like a horrific odor from so many members of the previously mentioned fan bases) might actually be good basketball teams, and might actually contend to win something.

Whenever you mention a team like the Trailblazers, or Raptors, or Warriors, or Hawks, they’re immediately dismissed. And why? Oh, it’s got nothing to do with what actually takes place on the basketball court. Based purely on the merits of what these teams have done thus far this season, they have every reason to be considered contenders, if not favorites. No, people who are afraid of the unknown, afraid of these inferior franchises, cities, fans, and people who are beneath them, suddenly ascending to their level and challenging them, start reaching for anything to dismiss their existence and dismiss their threat. Their own self esteem, their own since of value is too wrapped up in feeling superior over someone because of who their basketball team is. So what do they do? They turn to one simple, lazy, pathetic argument, broken down into two parts.

 

They talk bad about you because they fear you.

They convince themselves to dismiss you because they fear you.

 

“What have you done recently in the playoffs?” This is usually followed up, or preceded by, it depends, “The playoffs are a different game”.

What?

I’m sorry, I fail to recognize what 2012 has to do with 2015? In fact, I fail to recognize what 2014 has to do with to 2015. Why aren’t the Spurs and Heat the odds on favorites to win the title this year? Oh, right, it’s a different season. Things change. What has happened in the past has no bearing on this season. People who turn to that are simply lazy, and ignorant. It’s easier to throw out a tired, old cliche than go out and actually inform themselves. In the past 25 years we’ve seen over a half dozen teams go from accomplishing nothing in the playoffs, being early round exits on an annual basis, to playing in conference finals, winning conference finals, or winning an NBA championship.

The 2000 Lakers had advanced beyond the second round in the Western Conference once in the past eight years. That didn’t seem to stop them from winning an NBA title. The 1999 Spurs had won four division titles the previous 14 seasons, yet had SIX times as many first round exits as trips beyond the second round. They managed to get it together and win a championship.

While there are many more examples of this, the best is a team whose fan base is incredibly cocky and arrogant but has done something similar in recent memory. As the 2011 playoffs began the Chicago Bulls were looking at a stretch of 12 years where they advanced beyond the first round all of, hold on, wait for this one….. ONE time. One time in twelve years. The Atlanta Hawks have done more than that in the past six years. But all you hear is, “The Hawks can’t do anything, when’s the last time they got out of the second round?” And what’s hilarious, is you often hear this from Bulls fans. I guess the Chicago Bulls are the only team who can actually ascend and take the next step, sorry Warriors fans. Sorry Raptors fans. Sorry Wizard fans. Sorry Blazers fans. Sorry Hawks fans. You have no chance, don’t you know? You didn’t make the conference finals last year, so you definitely can’t do it this year.

But if that one doesn’t work, we get the, “well the playoffs are a different game”. Really? Do they raise the rims? Move the three point line? Play 11 minute quarters? Weird.

Maybe in the playoffs the ability to defend and execute in the halfcourt suddenly becomes less important. Yeah, that must be it. Maybe in the playoffs a coaching advantage to take advantage of matchups is no longer helpful, it becomes useless. Yep, that’s gotta be what makes the playoffs different. That’s why teams like Atlanta, and Golden State, and Portland, who play so cohesively as a team, and/or are well coached and play good defense don’t stand a chance to win in the playoffs.

The exact same reasons the San Antonio Spurs stood no chance to win in the playoffs.

That’s okay, just remember, fear is the path to the dark side.

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Just Who is my Favorite Sports Team?

Someone asked me recently, of my favorite teams, which is actually my true favorite. My immediate answer was, “Chase Elliott”. But as I sit and think about this question, and how I’d answer if asked again, I think I might reconsider. As I thought, it got me thinking, just which teams ARE my favorite. Which teams would winning a championship mean more for me? And which ones is a championship so unfathomable that perhaps, it falls down the list simply because imagining it occurring is too far fetched for me to even attempt to wrap my arms around how I’d feel. So I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve come up with a list, in order, of the 25 things I’d most like to see occur in sports during my lifetime.

1. Atlanta Falcons win Super Bowl- I know I said Chase Elliott was my favorite team/driver, whatever you want to call it, and he is. However, I get to watch him 30 to 36 weekends a year. He’s also young, it’s his first year in major NASCAR racing. There’s going to be plenty of time for that.

The Atlanta Falcons however, are not young. The Falcons are nearing 50 years old, and still no championship. They were instilled as my favorite team growing up because they were my dad’s favorite team. It didn’t hurt that of the stick and ball sports, football is my favorite, and it’s not close. But not only that, the Atlanta Falcons are, besides the Elliotts, the only TRUE professional team based out of Georgia, and the only one based out of Atlanta, the Dream notwithstanding. Yes, the Braves and Hawks call Atlanta home now, but they didn’t originate here.

The Atlanta Falcons are Atlanta’s and Atlanta’s alone. We share no history (though at times, pawning some of this history off on another city wouldn’t exactly stink) with another city, no records, no uniforms, no logos, no anything. They’ve always been, the ATLANTA Falcons.

The day that this team brings a championship to Atlanta is one, that truthfully, I can’t even begin to describe the way I even think I’d feel. And I know what I’d ultimately actually feel would reach far, far beyond what I can conjure up in my mind.

2. Chase Elliott win a Sprint Cup Championship- As mentioned, Elliott is my “favorite”. If this question was posed 11 years ago, I would have put Bill Elliott winning a championship at 1, the Falcons winning a Super Bowl at 2. As much as I loved the Falcons as a kid, they didn’t compare to how much I loved “Awesome Bill”. And now that his son his here? I love the Falcons, but not like I root for this kid. The investment is deep. The history is deeper. The personal meaning, deeper than both together.

Through all the ups and downs of my relationship with my father, there is one constant. An Elliott in a racecar. There’s always an Elliott that we can come together over. Whether it was reminiscing about the good ole days of Bill’s hey day, or even his not so stellar moments, or it’s talking about the incredibly bright future of his son Chase, we will always have an Elliott. And for that, nothing can replace that. And that’s not saying the Falcons aren’t a “me and dad thing”, but it’s not close to our connection to the Elliotts, as I mentioned in a post nearly four full years ago.

So the day Chase Elliott hoists that championship trophy above his head, I’ll remember being there in 1988 at Atlanta International Raceway to watch his dad hoist one, and I hope, when it happens, I’m with my dad.

3. Georgia Tech College Football National Championship- This one is one I almost dropped lower, simply because of the improbability. Not to mention, I was alive for one of these, and despite being only five years old, I actually have vivid memories of Shawn Jones and William Bell running all through Nebraska’s defense in Orlando. However, it’s that improbability that ranks it so high on the list. Everyone knows I pull for Georgia when they don’t play Tech, and because I wasn’t alive for Georgia’s national title, and because there are so many other rabid SEC fans around here, I almost put them higher than Tech on this list. Then I thought, not only does a Tech title put it in the face of THOSE SEC fans, it does it to the Georgia fans I’ve heard nothing but ridicule from for almost the last quarter century. But alas, it’s not going to happen. But I can dream, right?

4. Georgia College Football National Championship- Like I mentioned above, I almost put this above Tech winning one, but it comes in a step below. I know some Tech fans may disown me for that thought, and some may even disown me for having them here, but that’s fine. I like all my home teams. When a team from Georgia plays a team from another state, I want the local boys to whip their ass. Every. Single. Time.

Beyond that though, I love Mark Richt. He’s everything right about college football and receives far, far, FAR more flak than he deserves. Whether it’s people incredulously going on about how he’s, “lost control of the program”, or the players, or to the even more asinine arguments about his lack of a national title, he receives unjust criticism.

The national title argument in particular irks me because it’s so stupid. Because the argument is so ignorant. I’m not here to get into details about that. But, if Richt could win one in Athens, it would shut those people up. And for that reason alone, them winning a national title makes the top four.

5. Chase Elliott Winning the Daytona 500- See above for the reasoning. The Daytona 500, in many ways, is almost the equivalent to a championship, so if Chase can pull that one off, it’s going to be one very, very special day.

6. Atlanta Braves World Series- Yes, we have one. And I was plenty old enough to enjoy and appreciate it. But not as much as I’d enjoy and appreciate it now. All the World Series losses as well that have added up over the years only add to the need for a championship. Hearing it from all these teams who over the past 25 years have made the playoffs, maybe 2 times, maybe three, or even five or six, but have two World Series rings, about how much greater an organization than the Braves they are (though currently employing Fredi Gonzalez gives these claims merit) gets old. A second trophy would shut them up.

7. Chase Elliott Nationwide Championship- It might seem high, seeing as how the Nationwide Series, or Xfinity Series, or whatever it will be next year, is basically the AAA minor leagues of NASCAR. However, unlike other minor leagues, they’re on major TV every week, they’re a multi million dollar sport, and, they’re the second most popular form of motorsports in America. So it’s not your typical minor league circuit. Throw in the fact that for Chase to win one, he’d have to do so at age 18 or 19…. It’d be pretty cool. Plus, with the way sports are around here in Georgia, it might be the closest we get to a championship in the next few years, well, until Chase goes and wins one at the Cup level.

8. Georgia Tech Basketball National Title- They’ve been closer than any other team in this state over the past 15 years when it comes to winning a title, though, you could argue that the 2012 Georgia football team was pretty dadgum close as well. They actually have played for a championship in this century. Nobody else say can say that. So there’s that. But, while I love my Jackets, and am an ardent follower and supporter, basketball just isn’t there with football, NASCAR, and even baseball. Notice, I still haven’t gotten to the Hawks yet. Being a Georgia Tech fan however is hard. We’re outnumbered, and the good times are becoming fewer and farther between. Something to cheer about, period, would be nice. But if Tech is going to win something, while I’d pick baseball first, the odds are much, much better in happens on the hardwood than on the Flats.

9. Kasey Kahne Sprint Cup Championship- Kasey Kahne is here because of Bill Elliott. When Elliott retired following the 2003 season, Kasey Kahne was tabbed to be his replacement in the no. 9 car, and immediately, I became a fan. At this point, there was no sign of a future Elliott coming into the sport, so I had to find a new guy to pull for. That Kasey was a contender off the bat, with so many agonizingly close runner-up finishes (much like Elliott) in his rookie year, pulling for him became easy, and difficult at the same time. Kahne is a guy with a lot of talent, that’s yet to put it all together. Watching him will his way into the chase (NASCAR’s version of the playoffs) this year with a gutty drive at Atlanta was pretty cool. Watching him finally put everything together and win a championship would be downright awesome. For ten years I’ve been a Kahne fan, but he better hurry. Once Chase Elliott arrives on the Sprint Cup circuit, he’s no longer going to be my top dog. Maybe he can pull it off this year, who knows?

10. Atlanta Hawks NBA Championship- I probably dropped them below Georgia State simply because of how infuriated and frustrated I am with the mess this organization is right now. And it’s probably because it’s been such a frustrating and infuriating disaster for so long, that they have fallen so far. Nevertheless, they’re still my team.

11. Georgia Tech Baseball College World Series

12. Kasey Kahne Winning the Daytona 500

13. North Carolina Basketball National Championship

14. Georgia Southern Football Being Ranked

15. Georgia State Basketball Final Four

16. Georgia Basketball National Championship

17. Atlanta Dream WNBA Championship

18. Georgia Tech Basketball ACC Tournament Championship

19. Georgia State Football Conference Championship

20. Kennesaw State Basketball NCAA Tournament Bid

21. Kansas City Royals World Series

22. Detroit Lions Super Bowl

23. North Carolina Football National Championship

24. Buffalo Bills Super Bowl

25. Cleveland Browns Super Bowl

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Filed under Baseball, Basketball, Braves, College Basketball, College Football, Daytona 500, Falcons, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawks, Motorsports, NASCAR, NFL, Personal, Playoffs, Sports

It’s Not Wrong to be Happy Lebron James Lost

Lebron James is still not an NBA champion. And that my friends is quite possibly a very good thing. As he is right now, Lebron James is denying us the chance to watch the most talented athlete on the planet shine, and do what he does best.

Michael Jordan was humbled in high school, cut from his team, and forced to work hard to overcome the adversity and ascend to the peak of his passion.

Kobe Bryant started all of about eight games in his first two years in the NBA, riding the bench, observing as much as contributing. He had to prove himself and deserve his spot on the floor.

Lebron James has had absolutely everything handed to him. Realizing that perhaps an NBA title will not be simply handed to him, no matter how sexy and glamorous his team is, or which superstars he teams up with will motivate James to do what it takes to be a champion.

Whether that’s work on his post game, grow up and achieve some mental toughness, or learn to keep his mouth shut, or perhaps all of the above and then some, perhaps James can use this as motivation to improve in those areas.

Perhaps then James can quit robbing basketball fans of the treat of watching what should be absolute greatness. Instead of the greatest player in the world being great, we were treated to the games greatest player not even being one of the five best players in the entire series.

So yes, Lebron James did not win an NBA title, and ultimately, everyone might be the better for it.

If this experience humbles James like it has the potential to, the chastising and derision of James may all eventually work out in his favor, and his losing was still enjoyed by those eager to take their shots at a man who has done plenty to earn them.

Perhaps no sports star has ever been the subject of such scrutiny, and in some cases such scathing criticism as Lebron James has. Then again, perhaps no sports star has done more to deserve it.

Whether it’s on the court transgressions, bad PR decisions, mindless comments, or just coming off as an arrogant jerk, the reasons to dislike James spread far and wide.

No, he’s not getting himself arrested, he’s not committing felonies, but he is seemingly on a mission to be as disliked as possible.

When one man proclaims himself as “King”, and has a tattoo saying “Chosen1” across his broad shoulders, you expect those broad shoulders to carry a heavy burden. When they don’t, it comes across as shameless self promotion, an over-sized ego, and a ridiculously inflated sense of self.

All three describe James perfectly.

He couldn’t win a title in Cleveland because Mike Brown couldn’t coach and Danny Ferry couldn’t put the proper supporting cast around him.

Well in Miami, he didn’t have Mike Brown to blame, and his supporting cast consisted of two players on the US Olympic team. He still couldn’t win a title.

So who do you blame now Lebron? You want to go tell Pat Riley he didn’t give you a good enough supporting cast? Why don’t you treat Bosh and Wade like you did Moe Williams and Antwan Jamison, making it so very clear that you don’t wish to be playing along side such inferior talents, enabling them to prohibit you from winning a championship. It obviously isn’t your fault that you failed again to win a title.

We of course know it’s not James’ fault. We know this because according to James’ on court behavior, he’s never missed a shot or committed a turnover without being fouled, and he’s never committed a foul himself.

So this latest failure can’t be Lebron James’ fault. There must be many others to heap the blame on. We surely can’t attribute this loss to the fact that supposedly the world’s greatest basketball player, who is said to have the potential to be the greatest of all-time, was nowhere to be found in crucial fourth quarters of close games.

So where does the blame go?

But of course, the blame goes to God, at least per James’ own comments. It’s God’s fault, because He didn’t want him to win a title this year, that’s what it was. More on that in a minute, but clearly, another example of Lebron James finding another excuse for why he didn’t succeed.

It’s one thing to go struggle, to have shots not falling, to have a bad night. It’s another to hide in a corner, almost like the poor little league kid in right field praying the ball isn’t hit to him.

James would have you believe that he’s not there to be a scorer. The best player in the world should be putting the ball in the basket, period. James argues that he’s a two way player, which he is, and a phenomenal one at that, and that you can’t just look at stats, you have to look at the other things he does on the floor, and what the end result is.

Well, the end result is the Heat blew a 2-1 lead over the Mavericks, including multiple large fourth quarter leads. So sure, we can look at things beyond the box score, like, you know, the final score. The final score makes it quite clear Lebron James didn’t do enough to help his team win.

The plus/minus rating is nowhere close to the most reliable stat in the world, however, when it’s as extreme as -24 for supposedly the most gifted basektball player in the world, that’s worth noting. The Heat outscored the Mavericks by 14 points without James on the floor, but were outscored by 24 when he was out there.

So clearly James was doing a lot of other things that don’t show up in the box score contributing to his teams success and ultimate NBA championship, right? You know, like getting torched by Jason Terry, a guy who’s never been to an All-Star game .

Had he continued to shut down Terry as he had early on in the series his offensive woes, or unwillingness to shoot the basketball wouldn’t have been focused on quite as much.

However, Terry, at a huge size disadvantage, and very little advantage anywhere from a physical aspect, scorched the nets in the second half of game five, and the first half of game six. When Terry boastfully stated that he didn’t think James could guard him for seven games, it was thought Terry was speaking out of place, and such words would only further motivate James to play stifling defense.

It turns out the opposite took place. It lit a fire under Terry and seemingly squelched any remaining fire James had. As Deshawn Stevenson said after game four, it was if James simply “checked out”.

In light of his almost complete lack of scoring in the 4th quarter, and absolute lack of clutch scoring, James said “The ball doesn’t go in every time”. And he’s right. But he seems to ignore the fact that the ball will absolutely not go in if you aren’t willing to shoot it.

Then again, such mindless comments from Lebron James that seem to make absolutely no sense seem to be the norm.

Last year on twitter he proclaimed, “Don’t think for one (minute) that I haven’t been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone!”

Of course during the course of the year we’ve been told over and over again by his coach, and the King himself that he doesn’t care what the fans or media members think.

Then during his press conference he wastes no time taking his shots at all those fans who were clearly elated to see him lose, and to get his shot at the media thrown in too. But he doesn’t care what they think, right?

He told us he thought the league should contract, then of course backpedaled away saying he didn’t even know what contraction meant. Do what?

He told us that anything less than a championship this year would be considered a failure, but in his press conference following game six in which that goal was made completely unattainable James said, “We have nothing to hang our heads low”. And he’s right, save that little part of his season being a complete failure, per his own words at the outset of the campaign.

Lebron said before game five that it was “now or never”. Now he’s saying he just knows “The Man upstairs” hadn’t decided it was his time yet. Well, if game was now or never, then I suppose the rational conclusion to draw, based on James’ own words, is that it’s never.

And for the record, I don’t believe God has pre-determined when Lebron James is going to win an NBA title, I think He might have more important things on the docket. On that note, Jason Terry, your faith in God, while honorable and what not, is not the reason your team hoisted up an NBA championship trophy this season.

The point being, there’s a common thread here. Lebron James contradicts himself as well as any public speaker outside of Washington D.C. ever has. Does he do it because he’s really that dumb, that ignorant and stupid? Or does he do it because he, which at times he claims he doesn’t, others makes it clear he does, cares what the public thinks of him and does his best to try and atone for things he’s said that may rub people the wrong way?

Personally, I’m going with the ignorance excuse. Lebron James has been coddled since he could hold a basketball, and as he got older, he got worse. Accountability was never an issue for him, never something he dealt with. Neither was adversity. The world was, in his eyes, completely his on a silver platter with the rest of the people in it merely his servants and supporting cast in his quest for world domination.

So it shouldn’t come as a shock that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t at all realize or understand the response his poorly chosen words receive. He’s out of touch with reality, so he obviously fails to see why many of the things he does rubs people the wrong way.

Insulting fans and media members alike in his press conference following the finals defeat and implying the lives of fans are inferior to his own was just James staying true to the course. He probably didn’t mean to come off quite like the arrogant jackass that he did, but because he’s ignorant to how the rest of the world thinks, and lives, he couldn’t understand how such statements can be taken that way.

His mocking of Dirk Nowitzki being sick, and subsequent attempt to argue that’s not what he was doing just further illustrates the point. James was arrogant enough, and just enough of a jerk to mock Dirk in the first place. But on top of that he was ignorant enough to think he could pull a fast one on anyone who saw the video, while still carrying on his little inside joke with his buddy Dwayne Wade and nobody would get it.

No Lebron, the rest of the world isn’t as dumb as you think, nor are they as inferior as you make them out to be.

If James is allowed, and he is, it is perfectly within his right, to make such comments about the fans that make it possible for him to live his obviously superior life, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people taking umbrage with that and having their own negative things to say about Baron, er… King James.

Sure, we’ll all wake up to our sorry lives tomorrow all the same, whether he had won an NBA championship or not.

The thing is, because he didn’t win that championship, James will be waking up to his same life as a perceived front running choker who still doesn’t have a championship ring.

Then again, maybe he won’t wake up to the same life in the morning. Maybe he will wake up one day this summer as a much more humbled man, a more determined man, and a man who has what it takes to be a champion.

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Magic Act, Hawks Disappear

Raise your hand if you are surprised at how Tuesday nights events in Orlando took place. If your hand is up, you must not follow the Hawks very closely.

While the majority of the Hawk faithful didn’t openly predict such a face plant, I feel pretty confident in saying that once it began to happen, very, very few Hawks fans were surprised.

The Hawks did what we’ve been almost waiting on them to do this entire series. They reverted back to their bi-polar regular season selves. They regressed back into the doldrums that had experts everywhere over looking this team, and had them labeled as one of the worst 5th seeds in recent memory.

Not guarding shooters, or putting a hand in their face? Check.

Giving listless effort? Check.

Not matching the opponents intensity? Check.

Taking bad shots? Check.

Playing individual basketball? Check.

Blow a golden opportunity? Check.

Everything the Hawks could do to look bad, and get blown out, they did. Instead of playing like the team who had won six of eight against the Magic, they looked much more like the Hawks team that lost seven of eight the previous year, including by that historically bad margin in the playoffs.

Suddenly the Hawks, not the Magic, face all the pressure. Atlanta has to look at game six in a similar fashion the Magic do. Win, or you’re done. Sure, the Hawks COULD lose the game and then go down to Florida on Saturday and still advance out of the first round.

However, to expect the Hawks to be able to pick themselves up off the deck after blowing a 3-1 series lead, and losing a series clinching game at home and win on the road in Orlando is just a bit far fetched. And by a bit, I mean as likely as Philadelphia recovering to beat Miami.

Orlando has to feel pretty good right now. If they come to Atlanta and get a victory, the momentum will be all theirs for the return home. Not to mention, the pressure will be all on the Hawks.

This is what happens when you go up 3-1 in a series, especially against a team you went 3-1 against in the regular season. The series is yours to lose. Orlando has been written off, they are supposed to already be gone fishing.

The Hawks however have been penciled into the second round against the Bulls. Of course, people know these Hawks, hence they were penciled in, not inked in that spot in the bracket.

If Atlanta goes on to blow this series, the collapse will rank as one of the biggest in the annals of Atlanta sports history. And while the collapse itself will be noteworthy and disheartening, it also won’t come with much surprise.

Perhaps that will make it hurt less should the Hawks proceed to play themselves out of the playoffs. Even up 3-1, expectations are tempered. People know this team.

Granted, following game four, we began to wonder if we really did know this team. Maybe they really could just flip a switch when the playoffs start. Maybe they’ve started to figure this playoff basketball thing out. Just maybe, the bi-polar team we saw look great one night, and absolutely dreadful the next, was strictly due to the fact that they were disinterested during the regular season, waiting for the playoffs to get here.

Well those thoughts were proven wrong, and that faith misplaced in game five. The Hawks went back to everything that made people doubt them.

The Hawks are a very stubborn team, and ultimately, a very soft team. Oh, sure, they’ve beat up on Dwight Howard in this series, but the Hawks are scared to attack the rim.

They are a team that relies on jump shots falling. When those jump shots don’t fall, they get in trouble. And instead of doing what a good team does, and adjusting to a poor shooting night, and attempting to find a way to get shots closer to the basket, and get the ball inside, they just keep jacking up more jumpers.

Instead of incorporating more ball movement and team play in an effort to get better shots off, it snowballs, the shots simply get worse and worse. The one-on-one isolation plays become more and more frequent. Possessions go by where one player holds the ball for 75% of the possession before chunking up an ill advised, contested shot that stands virtually no chance of going in.

The shocking part is that athletically speaking, and from a size stand point, the Hawks hold an advantage at every possession but center. So tell me why they can’t put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, going by their defenders in these one-on-one situations? Oh, they can, just don’t want to. Tell me why guys like Joe Johnson don’t post up defenders they have a large size advantage over? Or why Josh Smith doesn’t use his superior size, strength, and athleticism to run circles around Hedo Turkoglu in the post? Again, because they simply don’t want to.

And for the life of me, how is it that Joe Johnson, he of the $120 million contract, can only find a way to score 5 measly points? Absolutely pathetic, and the best news is how many more years of his disappearing act we get.

The Hawks struggled to make shots early Tuesday night, and once the game began to get away, it was quite clear very early on that they were already thinking to themselves, “it’s okay, we are up 3-1, we’ll just play them Thursday and try again”.

Well, if they fail Thursday, this collection of players may not get the chance to try it again. Failing Thursday puts them in the unenviable task of trying NOT to choke away a series, with the pressure heaped squarely on their shoulders. A first round exit, especially one of this nature, would almost certainly lead to a complete roster overhaul, where basically anyone not named Johnson or Horford could find themselves in a different uniform next year.

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