One Atlanta Hawks fan’s 500-mile journey to witness history

It’s been a long time since Atlanta Hawks fans had a team to be proud of.

For the better part of the last decade, they’ve been a perennial postseason disappointment. Before that, they were a whole lot worse.

This year, it was different. The 60-win Hawks were setting records and playing like a team on which the city could hang its collective hat. They were winning a lot, and they were doing it the right way.

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Hawks fans from all over took note and made the investment to support this team. They came from Midtown and Alpharetta, sure.

But they also came from Tallahassee, Florida, or at least Corey Clark did.

Corey Clark
Corey Clark

Clark is a former Atlanta resident who covers Florida State Athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat, and like current ATLiens, he was intoxicated by the brand of basketball the Hawks were playing. As the season progressed and Atlanta continued to improve, Clark made a commitment to the team: he would buy a playoff package and make the 500-mile round-trip journey for every postseason game.

“Honestly, it’s not just that they won a lot of games. It’s how they won those games,” he said. “They were really fun to watch. The ball movement. The shooting. The steals. The bench.”

Because of Clark’s career as a journalist, he attends sporting events largely for work, not a fan. So it took him a few games to get back into rabid fan mode, he said, but the heart-stopping nature of the Hawks’ first-round playoff games against the Brooklyn Nets brought him right back to being fully invested in an Atlanta sports team.

And while there’s a general consensus that the Hawks have completely fallen apart in the Eastern Conference Finals, Hawks fans like Clark, who have watched this team for years and understand just how big a deal getting to the ECF can be, haven’t let it spoil an incredibly memorable season.

All year, Hawks fans have said “ECF or bust,” and they made it. This team wasn’t supposed to be this good, this soon. Not even a 4-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers can take that away.

“Watching Paul Pierce let down the city of Washington, D.C. because he doesn’t understand he’s supposed to have the ball out of his hand before the buzzer sounds – I’ll never forget that.”

Photo: Curtis Compton/McClatchy-Tribune

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