The Washington Wizards: Key Players and Team History
Washington Wizards History and Highlights.
Founding and Early Years
The Washington Wizards joined the NBA as the Chicago Packers in 1961 and already had a star player in Walter Bellamy, who recorded 31 points and 19 rebounds per game with the best shooting percentage in the league. After two years in Chicago and changing their name to the Zephyrs, the team moved to Baltimore becoming the Baltimore Bullets.
The team didn’t find much success until Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld came into town in 1967 and 1968, both as second overall draft picks.
Making the Playoffs
The team improved dramatically, from 36 wins the previous season to 57 in the 1968–69 season, and Unseld received both the rookie of the year and the MVP awards. The Bullets became a Playoff team but lost to the New York Knicks in the first round in the next two seasons.
The following season, the Bullets defeated the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals and advanced to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in four games.
The Bullets traded Monroe and Gus Johnson but remained a contender after acquiring Elvin Hayes.
Relocation to Washington
In 1973 the team moved to Washington and was renamed Capital Bullets, and two years later became the Washington Bullets.
In 1975, the Bullets returned to the NBA Finals after eliminating the defending champions Boston Celtics in the conference finals. Unfortunately, they came up short again in the NBA Finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors in four games.
1978 NBA Champions
Dick Motta was named the team’s new head coach, and they didn’t wait long for their next NBA Finals appearance. In the 1977-78 season, the Bullets finished just 44-38, a record that didn’t seem promising. Finally, however, they found their way to the NBA Finals once again and defeated the Seattle Supersonics in seven games.
A Quiet Decade Follows
The 1980s were a decade that didn’t bring any success to the Bullets, and the 1990s looked much more promising.
In 1994, the Bullets managed to pair two of the University of Michigan Fab Five. They drafted Juwan Howard and traded Tom Gugliotta to get Chris Webber. The Bullets already had Calbert Chaney and Rex Chapman, which seemed like a team that could bring the Bullets back to the Playoffs.
Only playoff appearance
Unfortunately, they made the playoffs only once, where the Chicago Bulls swept them in the first round in 1997.
Enter the Washington Wizards
Before the 1997-98 season, the team changed its name to Washington Wizards. In 1998, the Wizards traded their top star Chris Webber to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond, but that didn’t make any difference.
Michael Jordan Joins the Wizards
In 1999, Michael Jordan became a minority owner of the team and the vice-president of basketball operations. Then, in 2001, at the age of 38, Jordan decided to come back from retirement, sold his stocks in the team, and became a player for the Washington Wizards. He started the 2001-02 season very well, averaging more than 25 points per game before the All-Star break but then he slowed down with injuries.
MJ also decided to play the following season, starting in all 82 games and averaging 20 points per game. Washington missed the playoffs in both seasons with Jordan on the roster. Being 40 years old, Jordan decided to retire for good in 2003.
Gilbert Arenas, John Wall, and Bradley Beal
The next big star on the team was Gilbert Arenas, who was brought in from the Golden State Warriors. With Arenas, the Wizards made four consecutive Playoff appearances, losing the last three in the opening round to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Arenas’ time with the Wizards finished with the locker room gun scandal in 2010.
John Wall was the player who took over the team after the Wizards selected him with the no. 1 pick at the 2010 NBA Draft. In 2012, Bradley Beal was the third pick for the Wizards, and those two made a great backcourt pair.
The Wizards looked like a great young team before Wall’s injuries took their toll. The Wizards made 4 Playoff appearances in 5 years and almost made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017 when they lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the second round.
Since the end of the Wall and Beal days, the Wizards have only made it to the playoffs twice, losing in the opening rounds on both occasions.