Washington Wizards: The Ignored Franchise

Tom NataliCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards points to the bench during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at Verizon Center on January 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

From Elgin Baylor to Dave Bing to Austin Carr to Adrian Dantley to Danny Ferry to Grant Hill to Steve Francis to Kevin Durant—just to name a few.

The Washington, DC area has bred basketball players since the 1950’s and has been consistently doing so ever since.

Not only that, but the area known as the “DMV” (which is acronym for DC, Maryland and Virginia) takes pride in its basketball hotbed.

Coaches like Morgan Wootten and Stu Vetter are household names among hoopheads out there. Schools like DeMatha Catholic and the powerful Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) are featured throughout the college basketball landscape all over the country.

AAU clubs like DC Assault and Team Takeover have gained notoriety as well. Barry Farm is a historical landmark for the sport.

The point I’m trying to make is that DC’s mark in basketball history is stacked, but when it comes to the city’s professional franchise, the Washington Wizards/Bullets are ignored. (For the sake of this article I'll call them the Wizards, even though this franchise was the Bullets for a longer period of time).

It’s been over thirty years since the Wizards have done anything substantial in the NBA. Names like Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe and Moses Malone are long forgotten players.

Gheorghe Muresan remains a folk-like tale. Chris Webber was traded for Mitch Richmond. I remember watching Rod Strickland call timeout in the middle of a game to vomit.

The Wizards were basically responsible for the Pistons championship in 2004 (Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace were integral parts of that team), Michael Jordan started his illustrious (sarcasm) front office campaign in the district and didn’t even lead the team to the playoffs as a player.

Let’s not forget that Gilbert Arenas may have had the biggest meltdown in recent sports history.

Want me to keep going? Gar Heard, Leonard Hamilton, Bernie Bickerstaff, Calbert Cheaney, Ed Tapscott, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Ernie Grunfeld, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Flip Saunders and Kwame Brown. I can keep going, I guarantee it.

When the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Chris Paul last summer, I came to a sad realization—the Washington Wizards are the worst franchise in NBA history.

Since their 1978 championship, the Wizards have done nothing but alienate the fanbase with embarrassing personnel decisions, off the court disasters and poor coaching.

This is incredibly sad for me. Given my anecdote in the beginning of this article, the city takes pride in it’s basketball—as it should.

However, there is no symmetry from the immense talent to come out of the “DMV” and it’s relationship with the basketball team.

To prove this, I went around and surveyed 10 fellow Washingtonians and asked them to name five current Wizards.

Out of those 10 people, every single one of them said John Wall. Only three out of 10 were able to name five or more.

In all honesty, I’m actually surprised that I found three people who could complete the task (ironically, one of them is a season ticket holder).

The Washington Redskins are number one in this city, always have been and always will.

The Washington Capitals have become a sight to see. The Verizon Center is packed every night as Caps fans hold one of the best home ice advantages in the NHL.

After the season the Nationals just had, their fanbase is growing at an exponential rate.

So who is at fault for this? Is it Abe Pollin and his unsuccessful ownership? Is it the people he hired who were clearly not fit for the job? Is it Washingtonians for being so disinterested?

It's very rare for a losing franchise to remain so popular—an organization like the Chicago Cubs are a prime example. It is much more common for the general public to remain unengaged to a team if the results are less than average.

Even though DC doesn’t have the best reputation regarding its fans, I don’t put the blame on them.

For many years, the team called their home USAir Arena, also known as US Airways Arena or the Capital Centre. For those that don’t remember, the place was a dump. It was in an inconvenient location for Metro goers and was just downright ugly.

The potential for the current Wizards team is not looking promising, either.

John Wall is certainly a special talent, but lingering injuries have plagued him, along with his lack of an outside shot.

The team made a head-scratching trade with New Orleans for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. The Wizards made the impulsive trade because they know they can’t attract any legitimate free agents.

That’s right. Not one All-Star has any desire to play in DC. That's when you know your franchise is in trouble.

The frustrating aspect to the situation in DC is that the NBA features so much parody. I know for a fact that more than half of the league has zero chance at winning an NBA title.

The rest of the league just contends for mediocrity, maybe a playoff series win, if lucky. Then they have to face the Lakers, Thunder, Bulls and Heat. I’d also throw in the Celtics, Grizzlies, Spurs and Clippers for potential dark horses (just covering all my angles here).

That being said, how can Ted Leonsis and his organization create a legitimate following?

The only solution is to put a good product on the court. But obviously, I’m highly skeptical.

I don’t like how the NBA is run and the Wizards are a prime example. Good luck to coach Randy Wittman. He’s going to need it.