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Why the Hawks must rewrite Atlanta’s horrid sports history by defeating the Wizards

alhorford Photo: A.R. Shaw

The Atlanta Hawks are hours away from what could be the biggest game in franchise history thus far. After defeating the Washington Wizards in Game 5 with Al Horford’s buzzer-beating layup, the Hawks are looking to close out the series on the opposing team’s home court.

But there is much more at stake than a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and face LeBron James and Cleveland Cavs. The Hawks will have Atlanta’s horrid sports history on their backs as well. To understand why it’s bigger than a game for the Hawks, you must first consider how heartbreak and disappointments have emotionally tormented fans in the city of Atlanta for decades.

The Atlanta Braves were once the city’s most prized franchise by winning 14 straight division titles. As an Atlanta native, this writer witnessed the Braves win their first division title as a fifth grader and the streak finally ended by the time I graduated college and began a career in journalism. It was an impressive run that was severely marred by the fact that the Braves only won one World Series (1995) during the team’s most successful years.

The Atlanta Falcons have galvanized the city every decade or so, but they have never claimed a Super Bowl title. Their appearance in the 1999 Super Bowl was offset by Eugene Robinson’s prostitute scandal and a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. Michael Vick and Matt Ryan both led the Falcons to playoff success, but they couldn’t lead their teams to the promised land.

This brings us to the Hawks, which actually faced a similar predicament in 1988 when they faced the Boston Celtics in a classic series. Leading the series 3-2, the Hawks had a chance to make it to their first Eastern Conference Finals. However, they lost Game 6 and 7 and have since struggled to return to such glory.

That’s why there can’t be a Game 7 for this year’s Hawks as they face the Wizards. The Hawks must travel to Washington and leave victorious. Because if it doesn’t happen, we’ve all seen how this movie ends. History tells us that a Game 6 loss would leave too much room for another disappointment that fans in the city of Atlanta can’t afford to bear.