Dear John Wall,
First and foremost, thank you. For the first time in my 20 year fandom, the Washington Wizards are relevant both in D.C. and at the national level. That’s due to one thing; you.
Washington, D.C. will always be a Redskins town. Doesn’t matter if the ‘Skins go 0-16 or 16-0. Unlike other cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Washington will always be a football town first and locals will then jump on the bandwagon of the other professional sports teams that are doing well. It sucks, but in a transient city like D.C. where a majority of the population moves there for just a chapter in their life, that’s what happens.
It’s become borderline embarrassing when the Warriors, Cavs, Knicks, and Celtics come to town as Verizon Center turns into a road arena for the Wizards during those games. There are Knicks and Celtics fans all over the country and as we know, people love jumping on the bandwagon when teams are doing well.
In addition, I think it’s unfair to you and your teammates with the #KD2DC rumors constantly swirling through the air. Many of the fans don’t appreciate the last two seasons this team has had and is already looking to move on to another super star. Would Kevin Durant coming to D.C. help this team? Sure. But he’s not here and likely isn’t coming here.
I really started getting excited about NBA basketball during the 1997 season as the Bullets changed their name to the Wizards. There were All-Stars all around the NBA and Michael Jordan was still in his prime with the Bulls. The NBA was in a good place.
I latched onto an NBA team and picking the Wizards seemed like a logical decision as I lived in Maryland at the time.
To be blunt, the Wizards were a joke starting in ’97. The team cracked 40+ wins just once from 1997-2004 including a franchise worst 19 wins during the 2000-2001 season. The Wizards were granted the #1 pick that offseason and took Kwame Brown to come in and be the franchise player for years to come. You know how that turned out.
Michael Jordan drafted Kwame Brown as the newly appointed President of Basketball Operations. After that mess of a 2000-2001 campaign, Jordan decided he had had enough with sitting in box suites and watching this team lose and decided to play again. Yes Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time but the Wizards were using front office personal as players.
The Wizards went 37-45 in his two seasons. No playoff appearances.
In 2004, the Wizards picked up class clown free agent, Gilbert Arenas. The team traded for Antawn Jamison as well. That 2004-2005 campaign was the best season in seven years as the Wizards beat the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs and then got swept by the eventual champions, the Miami Heat, led by Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
The Wizards would make the playoffs for three straight years and get beat by the Cleveland Cavaliers all three times in the first round.
In 2008 the Wizards signed Gilbert Arenas to a max deal worth $111M over the span of six years. After the Wizards inked Arenas to that deal, this team fell into a black hole. Injuries, losing seasons, and wild west showdowns with guns in the locker room ensued. On top of that, longtime owner Abe Polin passed away during the 2009 campaign.
So why does this matter?
For probably the first time since 1978, this team isn’t the laughing stock of the NBA. The team has a three-time All-Star running the show who has been a great asset to this franchise both on the court and off the court.
As this team goes through the final push towards the playoffs, several things have happened over the years since you’ve arrived that never happened before.
The bar is set higher. People are crying that this team might not make the playoffs. Good. This franchise was a dumpster fire for damn near 30 seasons. 20-30 win seasons were the norm and the team would only sell out games when Michael Jordan, the Knicks, or Lakers were in town. No one cared about the team on the floor. With back-to-back playoff appearances, it is now expected that this team make the playoffs. Anything short would be a disappointment, as it should be. People seem to forget that this team didn’t make the playoffs all too often before you arrived.
The front office is making acquisitions. Did the front office make acquisitions before you arrived in town? Sure. But they didn’t really matter nor have an affect on the team. Acquiring Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce, and just this season, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson to provide veteran leadership and mentorship to the younger guys is a step in the right direction considering the clowns (Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young, Andre Blatche, JaVale McGee) that were here before.
Not only is the team making offseason acquisitions but they are also making in-season acquisitions. When it became clear that Andre Miller wouldn’t cut it as the backup point guard last season, they went out and traded for younger legs in Ramon Sessions. Just this season, the Wizards desperately needed a stretch-four and scooped one up midseason in Markieff Morris.
In the past, the Wizards never, ever, EVER made desperation moves. Partly because they were never in the playoffs. But they did these past two seasons and for two reasons. To help win games and to keep you happy.
As you know, the team isn’t doing so hot yet you are having (by far) the best season of your career and about to become just the third player since 1993 to average 20 points and 10 assists per game. 99% of Wizards fans don’t know that and even fewer NBA fans know that. You don’t get the calls you deserve from the referees and you don’t get the recognition you deserve from the national media. This season isn’t going according to plan but there are still nine games to change all that.
You don’t have a billboard in D.C but if you continue making playoff appearances and All-Star game appearances, I have a hunch that’ll all change.
Most importantly though, thanks for making basketball relevant again in Washington, D.C.