As Paul Pierce's last second shot went through the net, all the two and a half hours of anxiety and cautious excitement saw its reaper. An overtime in a Game 6 on someone else's home floor after playing well enough to have control of the game surely meant more disaster and a likely, knife-twisting anticipation to do it all again in Game 7.
As Hawks fans, shoot, Atlanta fans, we've seen plenty of celebrations on our home floors and they seldom included the home team. We've watched Astros and Magic, Bulls and 49ers and so many others all dance around on our fields and courts, sending us to next year and right back into will-we-ever negativity and sadness.
For those of us who carry the Hawks' banner as proudly as any multi-championship fan, it has been worse than any other in town. The Falcons have been to a Super Bowl. The Braves have won a championship, in Atlanta no less. Our Hawks, meanwhile, haven't even won two playoffs rounds in a single post-season. It's a song that has become so well known across the land that you would have thought it to be sung by Beyonce.
So as Paul Pierce seemingly added one more miserable head shake to a too-large collection of such expressions of disappointments, a miracle. The shot was late. The ball was still in hand. It didn't count. I tweeted so much of what happened next in ALL CAPS THAT TWITTER LOCKED ME OUT FROM POSTING FOR A BIT.
They couldn't blame me, or any of the other long and short suffering Atlanta Hawks fans for being extra-exuberant. For when they waved off the Pierce basket, it was over. The waiting. The wondering. The ceiling. They were all gone, replaced by a euphoric feeling of celebration. Nobody wanted to leave the party as we all celebrated nationally on Twitter and everywhere else, jumping up and down on a virtual court while Wizards fans agonized in way in which so, so many of us can relate.
The Atlanta Hawks are in the Eastern Conference Finals and are two more series wins away from being NBA Champions, an idea so far fetched, I've only been able to think about it in the context of video games. But if this barrier can finally fall, why not others?
This team has accomplished something that no other has done in Atlanta Hawks history. From Cotton Fitzsimmons to Hubie, Kevin and Mike and through Lenny, Woody and LD. From Lou Hudson to Pete Maravich through Fast Eddie Johnson, John Drew, Danny Roundfield and Tree Rollins and on past Dominique Wilkins, Doc Rivers and Kevin Willis. Continuing beyond Mookie Blaylock, Steve Smith, Stacey Augmon and Dikembe Mutombo and finally Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, this team, these coaches were the ones that finally made our long dreams a reality.
Now anything's possible. But that's tomorrow. For tonight, let's celebrate an achievement that while mundane to some franchises, represents a major hurdle cleared for ours. It happened, fam. It's over.
ATL, everybody, everybody. ATL.