Moment No. 5 - First Game in Atlanta
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To celebrate five seasons in Atlanta, the Dream is counting down its five greatest moments as a franchise on the court during those five seasons. Following the announcement of the top moment, fans will have their chance to vote for what they think has been the greatest moment in franchise history thus far.
We begin the countdown with Moment No. 5 – the Dream’s first game in Atlanta.
It was just one of 34 regular-season games on the 2008 schedule, but May 23, 2008, will always have special significance in Atlanta Dream history. It was the night that the WNBA finally came to Atlanta and to Philips Arena. It was a night that saw a sellout crowd of 11,609 fans come to celebrate the city’s newest professional sports franchise. It was a night that the word “Dream” took on a new significance for all those who dreamed of bringing the WNBA to Atlanta, and finally saw their hard work and perseverance pay off. It was the night the Atlanta Dream played its first home game.
The 2008 season was certainly not a memorable one from a won/loss perspective for Atlanta, but that first season was special simple because of the possibilities it created. The 2008 season paved the way for the franchise’s future successes. It was the first time Atlantans were able to come together to support their new team, and begin building that foundation. And it all began on that date – May 23, 2008.
The build-up to the game had been going on for months, at least since the day the city was officially awarded the franchise on Oct. 17, 2007. From the announcement of the team name, colors and logo, to the unveiling of the uniforms and the introduction of the mascot, the excitement and anticipation continued to mount. In February, the expansion draft gave fans names and faces to put with the uniforms, and the WNBA Draft in April added to the roster. Fans were so eager to see the Dream play that nearly 8,000 came to witness an exhibition game 20 days prior to the true season opener.
The outcome of that first home game hardly mattered in the long run. The opponent was the Detroit Shock – a team that would win its second WNBA title in three seasons later that year. The overmatched Dream, a squad full of castoffs from other teams and recently drafted rookies, fought hard, even leading by as many as 18 points in the first half. But Detroit demonstrated its superiority in the second half, gradually pulling away for an 88-76 victory. Betty Lennox scored 21 points to lead the Dream, while Erika de Souza, the lone remaining holdover from that first team, added 10 points and 18 rebounds off the bench.
Despite the final score, by all accounts the night was a success. Following the game the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote, “Technically a 12-point loss, it was in every way that mattered a winning home debut”, and “In the days and years to come, it will be intriguing to watch the Dream grow”.
You won’t typically see losses appearing in a list of a team’s greatest moments. But this wasn’t any ordinary game, and the loss didn’t lessen the impact of the event itself. The WNBA had finally come to Atlanta, and that first game opened the door to many great moments still to come.