¡Hola fanáticos de los Hawks!
The Atlanta Hawks are set to take on the Orlando Magic tonight in a not so rare regular season game outside of the United States and Canada for the franchise. With this game en la Ciudad de México, the Hawks will double their all-time international contests — at least those that count in the standings. But what about the story of all the non-continental games that preceded this one tonight, both regulation and exhibition?
Three-game series against the Soviet Union national basketball team in Tbilisi in modern day Georgia (no, the other one), Vilnius in modern day Lithuania, and Moscow in modern day Russia.
With these three contests, the Atlanta Hawks were penned into the record books as the first NBA team to ever play in the now defunct Soviet Union. Playing a game in the USSR during the Cold War presented some tricky logistical and geopolitical challenges, but head coach Mike Fratello and company made the successful groundbreaking journey in an effort to help bridge the divide between the two global superpowers.
Two-game series against the Orlando Magic in London, United Kingdom
In what would come to be known as the ‘NBA Europe Live Tour’, the Hawks and Magic linked up across the pond for a two-game tilt 20 years ago this year for the first of many clashes of two NBA teams overseas. This game was the first ever NBA contest held in London, as franchise pillar again Dominique Wilkins helped the organization break their second international barrier in just five years. The Hawks and the Shaquille O’Neal-led Magic split this series 1-1, but the NBA wouldn’t return again to London until 2007.
Two-game series against the Miami Heat in San Juan, Puerto Rico
We need to first acknowledge that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and unincorporated territory of the United States and therefore should not be considered an international destination. But these contests in the unofficial 52nd state used to be a familiar part of the NBA Global Games series. From 1993 to 2006, six games were played in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico, but none have been since contested.
Miami, with its heavy influence to and from Latin America and the Caribbean, is an unsurprising choice to send abroad for NBA play. As such, they have been a competing team in each of the six games in San Juan historically. Ultimately, the Hawks and Heat split these two tightly contested games during this preseason series as they put on a show for los Puertorriqueños.
Two-game series against Milwaukee Bucks in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Hawks were once again trailblazers last summer, helping put on the first two NBA games ever held in the Middle East. The Hawks took home victory in both with Trae Young tallying 53 points in just 50 minutes of play between the two games. He and Giannis Antetokounmpo helped excite the crowd in the debut of the NBA Abu Dhabi Games, a series has been extended this preseason to a two-game set between the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves and surely will continue in future years.
Game against the Brooklyn Nets in London, United Kingdom
By the time the Hawks played their first regular season game overseas, both the franchise and the NBA had become familiar with the process of exporting their product abroad. Games are now almost annually held in the United Kingdom as interest in basketball in Europe and elsewhere around the world has continued to build.
The Nets won this contest 127-110 behind former Hawk Joe Johnson’s 29 points in a game held in O2 Arena in the Greenwich area of London. Starting at center for Atlanta was the first Macedonian in NBA history, Pero Antić, whereas the two highest scoring Hawks — Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack, both with 17 — came off the bench in this one.
Game against the Orlando Magic in Mexico City, Mexico
This game — held in Arena CDMX in Mexico City — will be the 32nd ever NBA game in Mexico since 1992. Tune in tonight as the Hawks play their first game south of the border.