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Starting out in 1961 as the Chicago Packers, there have been numerous changes of cities and teams names for this franchise before finally landing in DC for the 1997 season, representing in the NBA as the Washington Wizards. Only one championship has been hoisted in our nation’s capital by the hometown basketball team; that coming in the 1978 season when they were known as the Washington Bullets.
Following several years of sub-par basketball, the team finally found their footing in the 1970s. Starring Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld, the Bullets became a perennial championship contender. They reached the NBA Finals four times during the decade (more than any other team), and came away with their lone championship title. Following this period, injuries and age caught up with Washington and they began to see a decline in play.
Draft picks and trades were used to try to solve the problem, but Washington simply couldn’t repeat the success from years past. Despite winning records, the team was never able to get over the hump, being quickly bounced early in the playoffs throughout the 80s. Ever-searching to get back to greatness, there would be more disappointment in DC throughout the late 80s and 90s. The downward spiral would continue into the new millennium.
Not even the great Michael Jordan could break the curse of this once great franchise. Jordan returned to the NBA with the Wizards in 2001, but age and injury had caught up to him and he just couldn’t make the same kind of impact on the court in Washington as he had done in Chicago.
It would be 2005 when the Wizards would finally return to postseason basketball. They would go on to win the first round, posting their first playoff victory since 1988. By this time, Gilbert Arenas had emerged as the star on the team, leading them to the playoffs each season after that until he injured his knee early in the 2008-2009 season. Injuries had again derailed the team.
However, a new era was rising in Washington when John Wall was selected with the first overall draft pick out of Kentucky. He has taken the reigns of this team on the court and quietly brought them back into contention as a playoff contender. Along with Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal, and late-season acquisition Jabari Parker, the Wizards are looking to finally shake their long past of losing and achieve new heights, adding a second title to the history of this franchise.
Head Coach Scott Brooks has his players working toward a playoff berth. If all goes according to plan, the Washington Wizards may just turn some heads and make a statement in this league about who they are and where they are going.
Notable Washington Wizards alumni include such well-known names as Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, Wes Unseld, Walt Bellamy, Gilbert Arena, and John Wall. Click here for additional information about the Washington Wizards.