After four last place seasons in Milwaukee the Hawks arrived in St. Louis, who had once been home to the Bombers an early BAA franchise that folded in 1950, and were on the verge of becoming one of the top teams in the NBA with second year Forward Bob Pettit. In their first season in the Gateway City, Pettit would earn the very first MVP award in NBA history while leading the Hawks into second place with a 33-39 record. In the playoffs against the Minneapolis Lakers the Hawks would take Game 1 by a single point, before heading to Minneapolis where they were blown out by 58 points in Game 2. However, in the decisive third game back in St. Louis the Hawks would again win by one point to advance to the Western Finals, despite being outscored by 56 points in three games. In the West Finals the Hawks would get off to a quick start taking the first two games against the Fort Wayne Pistons. However, the Pistons would rebound to take the next three games and the series in five games.
Prior to the start of the season the Hawks made one of the biggest draft day deals in NBA history sending second overall pick Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics for Rookie Guard Cliff Hagan and second year star Ed Macauley, who had been a popular player at St. Louis University. Despite the movies the Hawks struggled most of the season as Coach Red Holzman was fired midway through the season. Initially the reigns were handed to guard Slater Martin, who led the Hawks to a 5-3 record. However, Martin did not want the added responsibility so backup Alex Hannum took over the rest of the season. Despite a 34-38 record the Hawks would claim the Western Division by a tiebreaker earring a bye into the Western Finals, where they would sweep the Minneapolis Lakers in three straight games to set up a match up with Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Hawks would get off to a fast start taking Game 1 in double overtime 125-123 in Boston. After the Celtics rebounded to take Game 2 the Hawks took Game 3 at home by two points the Celtics evened the series with a five point win in Game 4. After losing Game 5 in Boston the Hawks needed another two point victory at home to force a decisive 7th game. Game 7 in Boston would be a tight battle al the way going into double overtime. However the Celtics would emerge victorious winning by 2 points.
Coming off their trip to the NBA Finals the Hawks were flying high taking the Western Division by eight games with a solid 41-31 record as they played a strong ball control game with Bob Pettit ranking third in scoring and second in rebounding. In the Western Finals the Hawks would have no problem with Detroit Pistons taking the series in five games, which included a dominant Game 4 performance in which the Hawks won by 44 points. Facing the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals again, the Hawks once aging steal Game 1 in Boston and headed home with the series tied at a game apiece. Once again the Hawks took Game 3, as the Celtics lost Bill Russell to an ankle injury. Despite playing without Russell the Celtics evened the series in Game 4. Back in Boston in Game 5 the Hawks pulled out a two point victory to take control of the series. Needing a win at home for their first NBA Championship the Hawks beat the Celtics 110-109 as Bob Pettit scored 50 points playing against an injured Bill Russell as the Hawks won their first NBA Championship.
Despite winning the NBA Championship Coach Alex Hannum was replaced by Andy Phillip, who would only last twn games before being replaced by Ed Macauley. The Hawks would also make changes to the team acquiring Clyde Lovellette from the Cincinnati Royals. The Hawks would go on to win the Western Division easily with a solid 49-23 record as Bob Pettit took home his second MVP award while leading the league in scoring with 29.2 ppg. However, in the Western Division Finals the Hawks would be stunned by the Minneapolis Lakers in 6 games.
With Zelmo Beaty and Lenny Wilkens averaging more the 20 ppg, the Hawks had their finest season in St. Louis posting a 56-26 record and finishing in first place. However, in the playoffs the Hawks would be stunned in the first round by the San Francisco Warriors in six games. Following the season St. Louis fans would be further stunned when Owner Ben Kerner sold the team to Georgia real estate developer Thomas Cousins and former Georgia Governor Carl Sanders, who moved the team to Atlanta.
In 1954, the Hawks drafted Bob Pettit, a future NBA MVP. Despite this, the Hawks were one of the league’s worst teams, and in 1955 the Hawks moved, this time to St. Louis, Missouri, Milwaukee’s rival in the beer industry, and became the St. Louis Hawks.
Tri-Cities – Milwaukee – St. Louis – Atlanta
1949 – Present / National Basketball Association
1946 – 1949 / National Basketball League
1968 – Present / Atlanta Hawks
1955 – 1968 / St. Louis Hawks
1951 – 1955 / Milwaukee Hawks
1946 – 1951 / Tri-Cities Blackhawks
Hawks – The Tri-City Blackhawk’s name was shorted to just Hawks after the team moved to Milwaukee and continued to St. Louis.
NBA Championships 1
2019 – Present / State Farm Arena
1999 – 2018 / Philips Arena
1997 – 1999 / Georgia Dome & Alexander Memorial Coliseum
1972 – 1997 / The Omni
1968 – 1972 / Alexander Memorial Coliseum
1955 – 1968 / Kiel Auditorium
1951 – 1955 / Milwaukee Arena
1946 – 1951 / Wharton Field House
2015 – Present / Tony Ressler
2004 – 2015 / Atlanta Spirit, LLC
1977 – 2004 / Ted Turner/Turner Broadcasting
1968 – 1976 / Tom Cousins/Cousins Corporation, Carl Sanders
1946 – 1968 / Ben Kerner
9 Bob Pettit
21 Dominique Wilkins
23 Lou Hudson
55 Dikembe Mutombo
– Ted Turner
*Blue is this team’s history