February 9, 2015

Missing Bullets Banners?

It is extremely rare that I write anything in this blog about the Washington Bullets. In fact, I've only done it once ever before I published this post. This is a blog about being a Washington Wizards fan and since I was never a Bullets fan, I just don't spend a lot of time thinking about the franchise that would one day become my beloved Wizards. However, I'm confused about something. So here goes.

Look up in the rafters of Verizon Center and you will see a series of championship banners representing the collective achievements of the building's two major sport residents: the Washington Wizards basketball club (and all its predecessors) and the Washington Capitals hockey club. There are four retired Baltimore / Washington Bullets numbers at the west end of the arena (Wes Unseld, Gus Johnson, Elvin Hayes and Earl Monroe) flanking the 1977-1978 Washington Bullets NBA Champions banner and there are four retired Washington Capitals numbers (Rod Langway, Yvon Labre, Mike Gartner and Dale Hunter) at the opposite end of the building. In between those retired numbers hang the rest of the teams' winnings.

On the north side of the building, there are 12 Capitals banners: one for the 1988-89 Eastern Conference Championship team; eight for the Southeast Division Champions teams between the 1997-1998 and 2012-2013 seasons; one for the 2009-2010 Presidents' Trophy earned by that team; and two for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 teams which finished the season as regular season Eastern Conference Champions, meaning they had the most points at the end of 82 games. These last two seem highly suspect to me, but whatever.

The Wizards banners hang on the south side of the building. Or more accurately, the Baltimore Bullets and Washington Bullets banners hang on the south side of the building because the Wizards, to my great chagrin, have never won anything. No division titles, no conference titles and no championships. As you can see from the photograph above, there are six Bullets banners hanging in Verizon Center between the ends of the building.

There was a time, a long long time ago now, that the Bullets were actually a perennial winner. From the 1970-1971 season through the 1974-1975 season the team won five consecutive Central Division Championships; following the 1978-1979 season, the team added their first and only Atlantic Division Championship. The Bullets also made more finals appearances in the 1970s than any other franchise, winning the Eastern Conference in 1971, 1975, 1978 and 1979.

By my math, that makes ten banners (six divisions and four conferences). Why are there only six hanging in Verizon Center? Aren't the 1972-1973 Baltimore Bullets, 1973-1974 Capital Bullets, 1974-1975 Washington Bullets and 1978-1979 Washington Bullets Division Championships missing? I'm pretty sure they are.

When I first noticed this, I thought maybe the team was hanging only the best accomplishment from each season, meaning if they won their division and conference in the same season that they would just hang the Conference Champions banner from that season. But that's clearly not going on. There are two seasons without banners (1972-1973 and 1973-1974) entirely. And it's not like the building doesn't have space to hang more banners. When I was down in San Antonio a couple of years ago, I noticed the Spurs have won so much that they have aggregated all their Division Championships onto two banners. But space doesn't seem to be the issue. After all, there are 12 on the Caps side of the building.

A few years ago, I attended a chalk talk with Wizards' owner Ted Leonsis who told a story about the Bullets banners. Apparently, they originally credited all the championships won by the franchise to the Washington Bullets rather than recognizing some were won when the team was in Baltimore. A fan had to point this out to the team and they corrected the error immediately. I can't believe nobody noticed there were missing titles when they switched the incorrect Washington banners to Baltimore banners.

So are there banners missing or am I just missing something? I've checked and double checked this issue on websites, including the NBA's website. Can anyone help me out here with this question?

The San Antonio Spurs' banners from two years ago. Conference and NBA Titles only get their own banner.

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