The origins of the Atlanta Hawks can be traced to the Buffalo Bisons franchise, which was founded in 1946. The Bisons were a member of the National Basketball League and played their games at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The club was organized by Leo Ferris and the Erie County American Legion and was coached by Nat Hickey.
The franchise lasted only 38 days (13 games) in Buffalo when, on December 25, 1946, Leo Ferris, the team’s general manager and co-owner, announced that the team would be moving to Moline, Illinois, which at that time was part of an area then known as the “Tri-Cities”: Moline, Illinois, Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa
Upon relocation to Moline, the team was renamed the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and played their home games at Wharton Field House, a 6,000-seat arena in Moline. By 1949, it was obvious that the Tri-Cities area was too small to support an NBA team. After the season, the franchise relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and became the Milwaukee Hawks. During this time, 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.
The Hawks remained one of the NBA’s premier teams for the next decade in St Louis. Despite the success, their ownership became weary of the Hawks’ longtime home, Kiel Auditorium. The 33-year-old arena seated only 10,000 and was starting to show its age. The Hawks occasionally played at the larger St. Louis Arena, mostly against popular opponents, but ownership was not willing to move the team there full-time because it had not been well-maintained since the 1940s. In early 1967, the Hawks were briefly up for sale. One of the bidders was a New Orleans group led by Morton Downey Jr., but the deal collapsed and Kerner temporarily took his team off the market.
Unable to resolve the arena situation, Kerner sold the Hawks to Atlanta real estate developer Tom Cousins and former Georgia governor Carl Sanders, who moved the team to Atlanta in 1968. They then became the Atlanta Hawks.
There’s your neat-o history lesson of the day. It’s an early Saturday night game for this one. Hopefully, the Cleveland Cavaliers can get their first win of the season.