Hortencia Marcari is a name who nobody in the United States knows and probably never will. As obscure as the answer to the question: “Who came in 12th in the Boston Marathon in 1992?”
Yet this moniker and the year 2005 illustrated to me that being a lifelong Atlanta Hawks fan is a perpetual tale of suffering, disrespect and mistakes that seem to doom the franchise every turn. After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against the Indiana Pacers this season, I am convinced that our tale of woe just keeps flowing like Old Man River.
Marcari was a Brazilian women’s basketball player in the 1970s-90s. She was a great international star and an idol to women’s basketball players across the world. She led Brazil to gold medal finishes at the 1994 Pan American Games and the 1994 World Championships. The end of her career was topped off with a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
For these accomplishments, she was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2005. Guess who was not elected? Dominique Wilkins. The same Wilkins who was a nine-time All-Star, the all-time leading scorer for the Hawks and two-time Slam Dunk Champion who put posteriors in the seats of the Omni for 12 exciting years. The “Human Highlight Film” was reduced to an 8MM slideshow about shrubbery.
This was a total snub for the best player in the history of a franchise. The same type of snub that left him off the 1992 Dream Team and the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996. The guy did more than enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and if Marcari gets elected, then Wilkins’ induction should have been a foregone conclusion.
The 2005 NBA Draft was also a Biblical disaster. As I watched Marvin Williams walk to the podium, shake David Stern’s hand and receive his Hawks jersey, I swear frogs rained from the sky. There sat Chris Paul, undrafted. The Hawks should have been sued for gross negligence. Williams did not even start for North Carolina and Paul was the best point guard in the country.
I kept running scenarios in my head. Did Williams have incriminating photos of someone in the Hawks organization? Did Paul call and say he would demand a trade if drafted by Atlanta? Do the basketball gods just hate our guts? None of it made sense. You know how this story played out. Williams was mainly a reserve for Atlanta until he was traded to the Utah Jazz in 2012 and Paul is making All-Star teams.
The Hawks have boggled the collective minds of NBA fans for years. From bonehead front office moves to the perennially terrible attendance records, the Hawks give credence to the Grateful Dead line: “what a long, strange trip it’s been.” The loyal fans can attest to the moments of pure elation soon followed by other moments of absolute desolation.
Like the inexplicable Jon Koncak contract in 1989 that hamstrung the organization for years. A reserve center making $13 million for six years, which was more than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson at the time. A man who scored 3,520 points in his entire career given more money to come off the bench than three of the greatest players of all time. Literally, I have no more words for this debacle.
The trade of Wilkins for Danny Manning in 1994 was another crowning achievement. What organization, leading their conference after the All-Star Break, would trade their leading scorer mid-season? The Hawks, that’s who. The Hawks then squandered their No. 1 ranking and lost to a weak Indiana team in the second round. Oh, and let us not forget that Manning was a free agent after the year ended and bolted for the Phoenix Suns after playing in only 26 games for Atlanta. That’s like ordering a pizza and the delivery guy drives off just before you realize it’s covered in anchovies.
The late 90’s did see a run of playoff appearances under Lenny Wilkens, but never once did the Hawks threaten to make the Conference Finals. The 2000’s started badly until Joe Johnson came in. After seven years of scorched earth, the Hawks started a string of playoff appearances in 2007 that is still intact. I guess that’s something positive in this morass of negativity.
Then again, we always have 2005 to remind us of our place.