The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 21-25

The landscape of Atlanta sports changed in 2017.


Stadiums were raised, razed and renovated.

There were many more significant moments in sports involving the city, it’s teams and people connected to our region.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled and ranked a list of the 50 biggest moments in Atlanta sports for the year. Over 10 days, we will reveal the list in ascending order, five at a time, until it culminates with the biggest and most defining moment on Dec. 26.

Today: 21-25.

25. Atlanta United play first game

Atlanta United burst on the MLS scene as the expansion team played its inaugural game on March 5. While the result was a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls, 55,000 fans packed the temporary home of Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech to witness the historic game. Yamil Asad scored the first goal in Atlanta United history late in the first half for a 1-0 lead. The Red Bulls scored the final two games to spoil the party. The game was three years in the making since MLS announced that Atlanta would get a franchise in April 2014.

24. Hawks trade Dwight Howard

It was not much of a homecoming. Dwight Howard signed with his hometown Hawks in the summer of 2016, eager to resurrect his image after stops with the Lakers and Rockets and prove the center could still be a force. It didn’t really work here. In several late-season games, Howard did not play in the fourth quarter – including the Hawks’ playoff eliminating loss to the Wizards. New general manager Travis Schlenk made one of his first orders of business to move Howard. He did so with a trade to the Hornets on June 20 in a deal that returned Marco Belinelli and Miles Plumlee for the eight-time All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Howard averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds in his one season in Atlanta.

23. Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof problems

It was supposed to be an open-air stadium. It hasn’t been. The $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz stadium had major issues getting the centerpiece eight-petal roof to open. In fact, the retractable roof has only been open twice – once for a Falcons game and once for an Atlanta United game. Even when the roof was opened, it did so not in the way it is designed to work. It was announced in early October the roof would remain closed until next year. Then things got worse. During a marching band competition in late October, the roof sprung several substantial leaks during heavy rains. Umbrellas were used inside the building. Officials say the issues will be resolved but it wasn’t a good start.

22. Atlanta United gets first win

It didn’t take long for Atlanta United to get in the win column in its inaugural season. In its second game, on March 12, the Five Stripes recorded a 6-1 at the Minnesota United under snowy conditions. Josef Martinez had three goals and Miguel Almiron had two goals in the coldest game in MLS history with a kickoff temperature of 20 degrees.

21. Georgia reaches No. 1 in College Football Playoff rankings

Georgia earned the top spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings released for the 2017 season on Oct. 31. The Bulldogs were 8-0 and had just beaten Notre Dame in South Bend. Georgia would remain No. 1 in the second rankings, despite Alabama being ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Things would change drastically in the third poll after Georgia lost at Auburn, 40-17, on Nov. 11. The Bulldogs got revenge but you’ll read about that later.

The list so far:

21. Georgia reaches No. 1 in College Football Playoff rankings

22. Atlanta United gets first win

23. Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof problems

24. Hawks trade Dwight Howard

25. Atlanta United play first game

26. Braves finally find deal for new spring training home

27. Georgia Tech fails to make bowl game

28. Braves pick up 2018 option on Brian Snitker

29. Hawks blow up roster in youth movement

30. Freddie Freeman breaks wrist after MVP-caliber start

31. Hawks eliminated from playoffs by Wizards

32. Devonta Freeman signs big contract

33. Falcons’ PSL sales become issue

34. Brian McCann wins World Series with Astros

35. Falcons draft Takk McKinley

36. Hawks draft John Collins

37. Deshaun Watson leads Clemson to national championship

38. Tour Championship double winners

39. Sergio Garcia wins Masters

40. Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta NASCAR race

41. Hawks open practice facility

42. Ascension of Brave’ Ronald Acuna

43. Kennesaw football wins conference, goes to playoffs

44. Georgia State takes over Turner Field

45. John Isner wins fourth BB&T title

46. Georgia Swarm win National Lacrosse League title

47. Matt Stafford gets NFL-record contract

48. Braves release of Bartolo Colon

49. Rams hire Dunwoody’s Sean McVay

50. Warrick Dunn in Falcons Ring of Honor


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