Washington D.C. has waited 23 years for a basketball team to win a playoff series. It’s been nearly that long since they’ve had a team that got even a modicum of league-wide respect. The Wizards erased years of mismanagement and indifferent players, vanquishing the newly semi-respectable Chicago Bulls from the playoffs with a 94-91 victory in Game 6 of their first round playoff series.
Since 1982 Washington fans have suffered the indignity of such legendary NBA busts as 5′ 3″ Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues and 7′ 6″ Gheorghe Muresan, and any number of less recognizably NBA retreads. The team formerly known as the Washington Bullets even lost its identity when owner Abe Pollin changed the name in a politically correct attempt not to glorify gun violence. Until very recently in Wizard-land every glimmering ray of rookie hope is eventually traded for trinkets and shinny objects, leading to fan fatigue when the traded player becomes and All-Star in their new home. The nucleus of the current NBA champion Detroit Pistons are all former Wizards/Bullets draft choices.
While this series played out and under-reported side story was the fate of former overall #1 draft choice Kwame Brown. Brown has battled the high expectations of being drafted directly out of high school by Michael Jordan during his disastrous stint as owner/player/GM, and had never quite fulfilled his potential. Nursing a bad ankle all season, Brown was in essence cut from the team for the remainder of the year during the playoff series for failing to show up for two practices after playing a season low 4 minutes in Game 3. Brown may be a bust in Washington, but he’s got the potential to blossom elsewhere like so many previous Wizard players – he’s a free agent at the end of the season.
With a series victory under their belt, long-time Wizard fans have begun to talk about the glory days Bullets (circa 1978), best remembered for coach Dick Motta’s famous line, “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal is no opera singer, but the fat man is coming to town to play the Wizards. Let’s hope Shaq, whose rap albums include “Shaq Diesel” and “Shaq Fu — Da Return,” is not going to inflict his musical stylings on an unsuspecting nation again.
I’m thinking the 2005 version of the Motta line would be better as, “The season ain’t over till Shaq tosses a boatload of bricks from the free throw line…”