T.I. remembers when the Atlanta Hawks couldn’t get over the hump.
During the Eighties, no matter how hard Dominique Wilkins dunked, the birds could never advance beyond the second round of the NBA Playoffs – when they weren’t getting bounced in the first round, that is – losing to the Larry Bird-led Celtics twice and the nascent “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons once.
“My earliest memories are Spud Webb, Dominique and always getting put out of the playoffs,” he laughs in the first installment of The Die-Hards, a four-part video series that brings athletes and musicians together to celebrate fandom in all its forms.
Of course, even as the Hawks’ streak of postseason futility continued into the Nineties, and the team bottomed out in the early ‘Aughts, his support never wavered. In fact, his love of the franchise only intensified. After all, he was born and raised in Atlanta – he considers the Hawks to be his birthright.
“Being from Atlanta, you are bound by civic duty to represent the Hawks, whether they are winning or not,” he says. “I’m a very calm, cool, laid back fan – I’m a sleeper. You think, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be cool,’ then you see me on the court yelling at players! I’m the Sixth Man.”
And those lean years have only made the Hawks’ recent run of success – they finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season and made it all the way to the Conference Finals – that much sweeter. Now, T.I. says, his team is ready to take the next step; and he’s prepared to let his fan out when they capture that elusive NBA Championship.
“It’s a true team effort,” he says. “We’re gonna get to the big dance, and I think the first time we get there, we’re gonna win it.”