November 4, 2015

1961 Or 1963?

I know it's early in the 2015-2016 NBA season but tonight's win over the San Antonio Spurs (second in a row by the way) while being surrounded at Verizon Center by Spurs "fans" was incredible. I'm optimistic that when the Wizards and Randy Wittman figure out this whole pace and space offense that some good things might happen. But first, on to different things...

The Washington Wizards began life 54 years ago as the Chicago Packers. After their inaugural 1961-1962 season, the Packers changed their name to the Zephyrs. A year later, they were gone from Chicago and bound for Baltimore re-named the Bullets who began play in Maryland during the 1963-1964 season.

The Bullets were named after an extinct Basketball Association of America franchise which used to be located in Baltimore and the name actually stuck for a while (longer than one season anyway) before the team moved to the brand new Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Figuring they couldn't very well keep the Baltimore name and not wanting (I'm guessing here) to alienate their Charm City faithful, they renamed the team the Capital Bullets. Just one season later, they realized the futility of that name and changed the Capital to Washington, even though they still didn't play in the District.

The team's journey to the current Wizards nickname began in 1995 when owner Abe Pollin, upset about the rise of gun violence in the United States and possibly the assassination of his friend and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, declared the Bullets' days were numbered. Two years later after a public name-the-team contest that almost landed the city with the Washington Sea Dogs, the Wizards began play in the 1997-1998 season.

If all that seems like a lot of drama, it is. No NBA team has had more name changes than the Wizards franchise, not even the Sacramento Kings, who before landing in California stopped in Rochester (New York), Cincinnati, Kansas City and Omaha.

Not only is the start date wrong, but I object to the un-retiring of Gus Johnson's 25 in the graphic on the left.
So the Wizards have had a lot of names. So what? Who cares? Well, of course, I do. Being a guy who likes to understand the history of his sports teams, when I first became a Wizards fan I got up to speed immediately on the franchise's history, including all the stops and name changes, and noted something odd: there seemed to be a lot of merchandise both in the stores at MCI Center (now Verizon Center) and in the online NBA store (shown above) that advertised the franchise founding date at 1963. The team didn't seem to acknowledge those first two years in Chicago.

Then popped up an exception. In 2008, the Wizards announced the team would be wearing Zephyrs throwback uniforms for selected games during the 2008-2009 season. In the team's press release for this announcement, the Wizards noted the uniforms would be worn to celebrate the franchise's 45th anniversary, which ironically (doing math here) would put the team's founding one season AFTER the Zephyrs name was discontinued. How can you celebrate team history if you claim the team was founded after the jerseys you are wearing were originally worn?

So, fine, the team's confused. So am I. But at least it was just once. 

But now they've done it again. As I noted in a recent post, the Wizards installed a Franchise History display on the north side of the street level concourse that tracks the team's history, all the way back to their founding in Chicago in 1961, which is totally correct, even though the team has not acknowledged this date in the past. Finally it seemed that the Abe Pollin era refusal to admit to two years in the Windy City had been erased by Ted Leonsis' new deal.

Not so fast. Then I noticed the team's warmups for the current season (shown at the top of this post). The NBA has rolled out new pre-game warmup jackets this season (as they do every year to sell more stuff) that show the team's founding date in a basketball logo near the top of the left arm. The Wizards establishment date is shown as 1963. What gives? Why can't the Wizards agree with themselves or the NBA about when we want to recognize the first season played by this franchise? It seems pretty clear that it's 1961 to me. So this whole crazy ride started in Chicago. Who cares? I think it's time we started acknowledging 1961, not 1963. What's the problem, Wizards? You've got a problem. Just pick one at least. Please.

1961 seems to be the start of things on the Franchise History display. That sounds right to me.

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