Let’s be honest: Atlanta fans are known a little more for their pessimism than their passion, but that doesn’t stop this big city from repping their teams, even when they let them down. From the Falcons to the Braves to the Hawks, Atlanta has a rich history of sports, from professional sports teams to the College Football Hall of Fame. From the Atlanta Dream to the Flames to the Falcons, Atlanta is truly the pride of Georgia sports.
Keep reading to discover some of the best moments in Atlanta sports.
When it comes to championship rings, Atlanta ranks pretty low. When it comes to surprises, records, top-notch venues, and historic glory, Atlanta has those in spades – sports in this city is all about entertainment. Here are five of its finest moments.
The Minnesota Vikings had 15 wins and one loss going into their contest with the Atlanta Falcons in 1998. They had every intention of winning the Superbowl that year, and maybe they would have, had they not matched up against the Falcons.
With two minutes left and down 7 points, the Falcons went on a glorious 70-yard drive and forced the Vikings into overtime they would not overcome. As a result, the Falcons got their first chance at a Superbowl trophy, and while they lost to the Broncos, that upset remains one of the best moments in the franchise’s history.
Spud Webb did the impossible in his first year as an NBA player, representing the Atlanta Hawks at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The 5’7” rookie pulled off a win against defending Champ Dominique Wilkins, delivering dunks that had the crowd cheering, “Spud! Spud! Spud! Spud!” To this day, his victory is considered one of the best Slam Dunk wins of all time. A foot shorter than Wilkins and coming off an ankle injury, Webb didn’t even get a chance to practice his dunks going into the contest. Hawks legend.
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Hank Aaron is perhaps the Atlanta Braves’ most beloved player, and it’s no wonder why. The iconic baseball star was an incredible hitter (known as “Hammerin’ Hank”) and spent 21 seasons with the team.
On April 8, 1974, playing against the Dodgers, Hank Aaron surpassed the home run record set by Babe Ruth and officially became the league’s new Home Run King, with 715 career homers. More than 53,775 fans watched in the crowd and later got to call themselves a part of baseball history.
With so many cities competing for the spot, being named the Olympics’ host city is no small feat. In 1996, Atlanta hosted its first summer games with Mohammed Ali lighting the Olympic flame during an impressive Opening Ceremony. Though the games happened amongst surrounding tragedy, many athletic records were broken and made. Carl Lewis, legendary track and field star, won his ninth gold medal.
Some of the stadiums that hosted Olympic events have since been demolished, such as the Omni, but they live on in our Atlanta collection. Check out our Omni t-shirt here.
By 1995, the Braves had been courting a World Series title for some time now. A mainstay in the playoff series with a loaded lineup, a win seemed inevitable. That said, the team would have to work for it. After four straight division titles, the Braves officially became world champions during Game 6 against Cleveland, with a homer from David Justice and a near no-hitter from pitcher Tom Glavine.
Atlanta sports has some gems in its storied history with memorable wins, spiritual victories, and once-in-a-lifetime games.
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Of course, with the good comes the bad, and Atlanta has known plenty of hardships in its athletic history. Falcons fans, this is gonna get messy.
Let’s start with the Hawks. In 2015, the Hawks had all the makings of a team Atlanta could get excited about. They won 60 games in the regular season, went undefeated in January, and suddenly became the most talked about team in the league. Sadly, all of that momentum couldn’t push them past the Cleveland Cavaliers during the playoffs. Fronted by Lebron James in his absolute prime, the Cavaliers swept the Hawks and laid to waste their first real shot at a trophy.
As we mentioned before, Braves fans had a lot to be excited about in the 90s. And perhaps we’re too greedy to feel so let down by the 1996 series, considering the team had just won their first rings.
Still, the Game 4 loss, after the Braves were up 6-0 in the sixth inning still hurts. Somehow the Yankees rallied to win the night in extra innings and the series by Game Six. The Braves haven’t won a World Series since, and the Yankees? They’ve won a few.
17-0. That’s what the scoreboard read at the top of the NFC Championship Game between the Falcons and the 49ers. The offense seemed ready and primed to score as many points as possible. Right? Wrong.
The 49ers rallied to score 14 unanswered points in the second half, and the Falcons missed their chance at a touchdown, just five yards short of the endzone. Harry Douglas tripped over his feet while receiving what would have been the game-winning catch and the Falcons’ dreams of the Superbowl died – again.
To this day, the mention of “The Infield Rule” inspires shivers down Braves fans’ spines. Down by three points in the eighth inning, the Braves had a shot at taking the lead with bases loaded due to a pop fly from Andrelton Simmons. The Cardinals missed the catch, letting the ball drop, and the crowd was foaming at the mouth for the next hitter until a now-legendary call came in. Despite the ball being dropped into left field, it was officially deemed an Infield Fly Out because Shortstop Pete Kozma had a reasonable shot at catching it. Braves fans littered the field with trash, and the team lost the game, furious.
What is there to say about Superbowl 51? For Patriots fans, it will go down as one of the greatest nights of their lives. For Falcons fans? The worst. With 17 minutes left in the game, the Falcons were up 28-3. The Gatorade bath was all but ready for Atlanta, with no team ever recovering from that large a deficit in Superbowl history. Tom Brady had other plans.
With almost everything going wrong, the Falcons lost their lead, blowing their most realistic shot at a Superbowl title in truly historic fashion. Years later, we’re still talking about this game and shaking our heads.
Like every sports city, Atlanta has seen some incredible moments of glory and some heartbreaking moments of loss. From the Braves to the Falcons to the Hawks, they are perhaps best known for getting really close to championship titles. Still, they’ll always have the 1995 Braves.