atlanta hawks
Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s sports teams have fallen victim to playoff choke jobs in recent years. Will history repeat itself with the Hawks and Knicks?

Danny Small

The New York Knicks, and by extension Knicks fans, have their backs up against the wall. The Atlanta Hawks have a commanding lead and they are starting to talk about sending the Knicks “on vacation.”

Clint Capela’s mid-week comments about the Knicks’ physicality are sure to light a fire under the Madison Square Garden crowd. Whether it motivates the Knicks to win Game 5 remains to be seen.

However, there is one thing that should give Knicks fans hope when there appears to be none. This is a team from Atlanta. Playoff choke jobs are woven into the fabric of Atlanta sports and the Hawks are the final team needed to complete the prophecy.

Hold on, let’s roll that back and explain this a bit. It’s not rational, but when have sports ever been rational? Knicks fans need to hope that the playoff gods step forward to deliver another gut-wrenching blow to Atlanta. It might sound crazy, but tell that to the four Atlanta teams that have already had their hearts ripped out.

Super Bowl LI

It all started in Super Bowl 51. The Falcons held a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots with 8:31 left in the third quarter and victory was all but a sure thing. Yet, we all know how this story ends, right?

Matt Ryan and the Falcons curled up into a ball while Tom Brady and the Pats began a relentless campaign to claw their way back into the game. The Patriots were able to tie the game up and eventually win it in overtime.

This is still one of the worst choke jobs in the history of professional sports. It’s up there with the 1986 Red Sox, the 2004 Yankees (sigh), and the 2016 Warriors. Unfortunately, for Atlanta fans, this was only the start of something terrible.

2018 National Championship Game

Technically, Georgia isn’t an Atlanta team, but as the premier college in the state, they qualify for this list. The Bulldogs were up 20-7 with 6:52 left in the third quarter. Alabama had just pulled Jaylen Hurts in favor of a freshman quarterback whose name was impossible to pronounce (Tupa something?).

Well, that no-name freshman quarterback — Tua Tagovailoa — was able to lead the Crimson Tide on a second-half comeback for the ages. DeVonta Smith caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime on a blown coverage in the secondary.

This feels like it happened forever ago, but this loss is still fresh in the grand scheme of Atlanta sports.

Dream-Mystics 2018 WNBA Playoffs

Let’s go with the WNBA representative from Atlanta. The Dream are not immune from the curse that is Atlanta in the playoffs. The franchise last went to the playoffs in 2018, but they weren’t there for long. The Dream took a 2-1 lead in the series, only for Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics to come back and win the series 3-2.

It’s been tough sledding for the Dream since then. They are 15-41 in the regular season and haven’t even had the opportunity at playoff redemption.

Braves-Dodgers 2020 NLCS

Ah yes, the Braves were welcomed to the exclusive club during the pandemic shortened season in 2020. MVP Freddie Freeman and the Braves held a 3-1 lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. What could go wrong?

Obviously, we know how this story ends. The Braves wilted as the Dodgers picked up steam. Los Angeles took the momentum from the NLCS and parlayed that into a World Series. It could have easily been the Braves, but that’s not what the playoff gods have chosen for Atlanta.

The Hawks Can Complete The Cycle

All of this has come within the last five years. Atlanta fans have endured L after L. This is the first time the Hawks have been back to the playoffs since 2017. It’s only fitting that they would join the rest of Atlanta with a choke job for the ages.

Trae Young won’t really cement himself as a superstar in Atlanta until he blows a lead in the playoffs. Complete the prophecy. Knicks in seven.