By Micah Hart
ATLANTA (Nov. 30, 2004) -- Tuesday night at Philips Arena was Ted Turner Night, as the Hawks honored their former owner with a ceremony at halftime during their game with the New York Knicks.
The Hawks retired a #17 jersey in Turner's honor during the celebration, honoring the 24 years in which he owned the team before Time Warner merged with AOL in 2001.
NBA Commissioner David Stern was on hand, as was Atlanta Spirit investor Michael Gearon, Sr., a long-time friend of Turner's ever since he bought the team in 1977.
The ceremony began with a montage of highlights from Turner's years as Hawks owner as Frank Sinatra's classic song "My Way" played in the background, paying homage to Turner's reputation as a self-made man. Hawks broadcaster Bob Neal, who has worked with Turner at Turner Sports for many years, then introduced Commissioner Stern (right), who testified to Turner's impact on the both the NBA and the Atlanta sports community.
"He is one of the most colorful owners we've ever had," said Stern. "No one has been as loyal and as committed has he was, and I am proud to be associated with him."
After Stern and Gearon, Sr. spoke, Hawks greats Lou Hudson and Dominique Wilkins came out to present the banner to Turner, which was then raised to the rafters right at center court.
Turner then spoke to the audience about his fond memories of owning the team.
"I want to thank everyone for acknowledge my years here," said Turner, who saw his team win three Central Divison titles under his stewardship. "It's great to relive so many great moments. I learned so much while I was with this organization, and I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for this honor."
Turner (right) becomes the fourth person ever to have his jersey retired by the Hawks, joining Wilkins, Hudson, and Hall-of-Famer Bob Pettit.