Hawks Earn Second Eastern Conference Finals Appearance In 50 Years

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 20: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Wells Fargo Center on June 20, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

At the start of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, several experts set aside the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks as the favorites to appear in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, few insiders or experts outside of the state of Georgia felt that the Hawks would advance past the second round. Yet, here they are.

On Sunday night, the Atlanta Hawks walked into the Wells Fargo Center with their season on the line and they came out with a much-needed win. Led by a double-double from Trae Young and a 27-point performance from Kevin Huerter, the Hawks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 103-96 in game seven of their semifinals series.

This is not an annual occurrence for the Atlanta Hawks. In fact, the franchise has only advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals one other time in 50 years. Moreover, the team has not won a championship of any kind since the 1950s.

The matchups for the Eastern Conference Finals and Western Conference Finals have been set. Out west, the Phoenix Suns hold a one-game lead against the Clippers. In the east, the Hawks will travel to Milwaukee for game one against the Bucks on Wednesday. Of the four remaining franchises, none of them have won a championship this century. However, the biggest accomplishment could be made on the sideline.

At the start of the season, only seven NBA teams were led by Black head coaches. Of those seven head coaches, four managed to make it to the second round of the NBA playoffs. This week, three of them will work to lead their teams to an NBA Finals appearance.

Despite success on the league's biggest stage, Black coaches still struggle to get top jobs. A report from USA Today in March found that 74.2% of NBA players identified as Black. However, only 46% of assistant coaching positions are filled by people of color. Furthermore, only 23% head coaching positions are filled by Black coaches.

“These numbers are just disgraceful. It doesn’t make any sense,” National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michelle Roberts told USA Today.

“It’s not as if no one is doing anything at all. It’s not as if teams aren’t uttering the right words. But the players are seeing it. I’m hearing people talk about both publicly and privately that these numbers don’t make sense.”

Given the percentage of Black coaches represented in the NBA playoffs, it is likely that a Black coach will lead their team to an NBA Championship. If that does happen, it would mark only the 8th time since 1947 that a Black coach won an NBA championship. In the event that Tyrone Lue and the Clippers win the NBA title, he would become one of three Black coaches in league history to win multiple championships. He won his first back in 2016 with LeBron James.

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