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The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 31-35

The landscape of Atlanta sports changed in 2017.

Literally.

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.

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Today: 31-35.

35. Falcons draft Takk McKinley

The Falcons selected Takk McKinley with the No. 26 overall pick in the NFL Draft on April 27. And McKinley fulfilled a vow to his grandmother. He promised his grandmother, who raised him, on her death bed that he would play in the NFL. When the Falcons selected McKinley, a defensive end from UCLA, he carried a large framed photo of his grandmother on stage. In his ensuing interview, he said being drafted “means every (expletive) thing.” 

34. Brian McCann wins World Series with Astros

Brian McCann spent his first nine seasons playing for his hometown Braves. The Duluth native made seven All-Star and four trips to the playoffs without winning a series. The catcher signed with the Yankees as a free agent and spent three seasons with just one losing playoff series. He was traded to the Astros before the 2017 season. In McCann’s 13th season, the Astros won the ALDS over the Red Sox, the ALCS over the Yankees and the World Series with a Game 7 win over the Dodgers.

33. Falcons’ PSL sales become issue

In 2014, when the Falcons began grand plans for a billion dollar stadium, it was discovered that the team would sell Personal Seat Licenses to help pay for Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The license fees ranged from $500 to $45,000 per seat with no season tickets available without a PSL. The practice caused considerable consternation among fans and priced some out of the building. Before the stadium opened this year, all the PSLs had not been sold. At several games this season, the crowd has had a strong mix of fans for the visiting team. The loudness of the stadium has also been called into question. While some would prefer to blame lack of decibels on fans exploring the numerous amenities of the building, there is a significant element of a corporate crowd with average fans no longer season ticket holders. 

32. Devonta Freeman gets big contract

With Devonta Freeman about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, there was much consternation among the fan base about a contract extension to lock up the two-time Pro Bowl running back. Falcons officials stated their confidence that a deal would get done. It did on Aug. 9 when the fourth-round pick signed a five-year, $41.25 million deal, including $22 million in guaranteed money. The deal made Freeman the highest pain running back in the NFL. Freeman accounted for 3,175 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns in the previous two seasons.

31. Hawks eliminated from playoffs

A season after the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference championship, they again failed to get out of the first round in their 10th consecutive postseason appearance. The Hawks lost to the Wizards, a team they eliminated the previous season, in six games. But there were plenty of fireworks. The series was notable for a war of words between the Hawks’ Paul Millsap and the Wizards’ Markieff Morris that included references to Mixed Martial Arts. Dwight Howard, the team’s key offseason acquisition, did not play in the fourth quarter in two of the Hawks’ losses, including the elimination game. It didn’t go over well.

The list so far:

31. Hawks eliminated from playoffs

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 Braves’ 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

Links:

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

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