The more I think and blog about my beloved Washington Wizards, the more dubious distinctions I find in the franchise's history. I don't necessarily do this deliberately and it's certainly not some sort of self-flagellation type of punishment (although I would not blame you if you interpreted things that way). It just sort of happens, kind of like the way the Stay Puft marshmallow man popped into Dr. Ray Stanz' head in Ghostbusters. It's not my fault; it just happens.
Last night the United States men's basketball team defeated Argentina in this year's Olympic Games to move into the tournament's semi-finals. That got me thinking: how has the United States' basketball team been represented across the NBA and how come there never seem to be any Washington Wizards on the USA roster every four years in the Olympics? I mean as far as I can remember I don't remember any Wizards (or Bullets) suiting up for America. I probably should have let that thought die there.
Up to and including the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, NBA basketball players were prohibited from participating in Olympic completion under the pretense that it would give the United States an even bigger advantage in a sport they already dominated internationally every four years. But the 1992 Games in Barcelona would change all that and the USA responded by putting forward the Dream Team, the greatest collection of basketball players every assembled on a single team, to mop the floor with the rest of the world. And they did. And since then, Team USA has been represented solely by NBA players.
So who are all these players? Well, they are typically All-Star players on good NBA teams. Of the 83 slots filled by NBA players in the last eight Olympics, six of those spots have been filled by players from the Miami Heat (Hardaway, Mourning, Wade twice, Odom and James), New York Knicks (Ewing, Houston, Marbury(!), Chandler and Anthony twice) and Utah Jazz (Malone twice, Stockton twice, Boozer and Williams). The remaining 71? Various players from 25 of the other 27 franchises in the NBA. Yes, there have been two franchises that have never been represented on Team USA. The Atlanta Hawks and, of course, you knew this was coming, the Washington Wizards.
I know what you are thinking. That can't be, right? I mean there are some really bad teams out there or teams that just don't have the superstar caliber players to make it to a US Olympic roster, right? How about the Nets? Well, the Nets sent Richard Jefferson in 2004 when they were in Jersey and Deron Williams eight years later from Brooklyn. How about the Grizzlies? Well, almost not. Shareef Abdur-Rahim represented the US in Sydney in 2000 when he played for the VANCOUVER Grizzlies. But surely not the Bobcats / Hornets. Well actually, yes, again. Emeka Okafor in 2004.
So despite all those players representing our country, no Wizard has ever made it? How about Michael Jordan, Mitch Richmond and Christian Laettner? Sure, all three of those guys made it to the Games and they all played for the Wizards. But Jordan was the 1992 version of his airness, not the MJ that played in the District from 2001-2003. Mitch Richmond was close, just a couple of years from being broken down entirely and shipped to Washington for an almost in his prime Chris Webber, who appeared in four All-Star games for the Kings after being run out of town by the Bullets. And Laettner was just a college kid on the Dream Team, the reason that 83 of the 84 roster spots were filled by NBA players; Laettner got number 84. And we've already talked about Emeka Okafor.
Now, there have been some good players that have been on either a Bullets or Wizards roster since the Dream Team was formed. Webber and teammate Juwan Howard each made an appearance in an All-Star game but never sniffed Olympic competition. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler each made two All-Star teams in the mid aughts but were offered as much as Webber and Howard. True, Gilbert Arenas and John Wall (the team's only three time All-Stars in recent memory) and Bradley Beal got some consideration (Beal actually got an invite to be on the team this year) but ultimately didn't participate. Nothing.
In my three plus years writing this blog, I've written about the Wizards winning nothing since I started buying season tickets: no division titles, no conference titles and no NBA titles. Now you can add no USA Olympians to that list. Thank God for Atlanta here. I really thought the Wiz would end up as the lone team without a Team USA representative. When's the season start again? I gotta have something to take my mind off of this stuff.