Quick Intro: Washington Wizards History
The Washington Wizards franchise began in Chicago in 1961, where the team was known as the Chicago Packers. By 1963, they would be playing in Baltimore, where they bore the alliterative name, the Baltimore Bullets.
In 1963, a true sportsman, Abe Pollin, purchased the Baltimore Bullets. He kept the team there through the 1972-73 season, following which, he moved the team to Washington, DC, where they now play in the modern MCI Center, near the city’s Chinatown neighborhood. Pollin would continue to own the team for forty-five full seasons. He passed away in 2009, to the dismay of the sports world, to whom he exemplified all the positive things a team owner should be. His stake in the Washington Wizards, and the other franchises he owned will be picked up by his minority partner, Ted Leonsis, who is considered an excellent sportsman in his own right.
As admirable as the team’s ownership has been, the Washington Wizards have struggled on the court. The franchise fielded winning teams for a good many years in the 1960s and 1970s, led by players like Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, but they only managed to win one NBA championship.
That championship came in the 1977-78 season, when the Washington Bullets did not seem to have their strongest team. If nothing else, that season will always be remembered for the famous quote by the team’s coach, Dick Motta, which he gave to his players when their prospects had hit a low point: “The opera ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.” The players went on to defeat Seattle in a seven-game series to win all the marbles.
As the Washington basketball team got worse, so did the city’s crime rate, particularly in the area of homicide. Eventually, Pollin came to hate the team name “Bullets” that he had inherited when he bought the franchise. He took a poll of the area residence to help find a new name for the team. Among the names put up for consideration were: Dragons, Express, Sea Dogs, Stallions and Wizards. People seemed to like the alliteration, so the team changed from the Washington Bullets to the Washington Wizards after the 1995 season.
The Washington Wizards still have not found a formula to ditch their losing ways, even after considerable changes in players, coaches and even the front office, including getting Michael Jordan to emerge from retirement. That did not end well. Still, many Washingtonians are hopeful that new owner, Ted Leonsis, a large fellow who built the Washington Capitals into an NHL powerhouse, will eventually be able to do the same with the Wizards. So, maybe the opera ain’t over ‘til the fat man sings.