Should the Washington Wizards change their name back to the Bullets?

New Wizards owner Ted Leonsis hinted today in an article in the Washington Post that he would consider a uniform change for the Washington Wizards and was noncommittal about a possible name change.  Changing back to the red, white and blue uniforms is a no-brainer.  When Leonsis’ Caps went back to red white and blue (mostly red) uniforms, it coincided with the Caps’ resurgence in the standings and most importantly among fans.  The Nationals also play in red, white and blue uniforms.

Going back to the Bullets name would restore the franchise’s great tradition.  The Bullets won the NBA title in 1978 and appeared in the finals four times during the 1970s.  They had two of the greatest players of all-time in Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld.

When the late Abe Pollin changed the name in 1997 to Wizards, he did it because he said it wasn’t an appropriate name for a city that had suffered so much gun violence.  However, no one ever thought of the Bullets in that way.  Initially the meaning was “faster than a speeding Bullet.”

Rather than a ceremonial change, which did nothing to decrease gun violence in the city, the Wizards should go back to the Bullets, and ensure that a majority of the charity and community service work they do goes toward alleviating the problems that result in gun violence.  They could start by establishing an Abe Pollin community center where teens could play basketball.  In fact, build a few of them in some of the parts of the city that need them most.

In an article on Examiner.com, former Bullet Kevin Grevey, a starter on that Bullets championship team, said he would love the team to go back to the Bullets name.  Excerpts from the article are below:

“The name Bullets, once synonymous with winning, had become known for mediocrity, and finally futility in the previous decade. Merchandise sales were also near the bottom of the league. The team had gone away from its stars and stripes uniform to a plainer version in recent seasons.

Grevey, other ex-Bullets, and legions of fans disagreed vehemently with the name change.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can relate to in the name Wizards in Washington. Could you imagine them changing the name of the Redskins? It would be horrible,” Grevey said.

“Never once did I wear a Bullets uniform and feel embarrassed about it being used in a way other than players running down the floor speeding like a bullet. I think it was a stretch.

“But it was also a smart business decision, making the move to the arena almost like an expansion team. New coach, new players, new colors, new name, new city…so it was a windfall financially to change the name.”

The area around 7th and F Streets NW at the Verizon Center has been revitalized in the last decade. An area that once had abandoned buildings now is full with nightclubs, restaurants, and retailers, and Pollin financed the arena with $200 million of his own money. Pollin also gave back to the community through numerous charities.

Pollin died at the age of 85 in November 2009. Capitals owner and Wizards minority owner Ted Leonsis recently signed an agreement with the Pollin estate to purchase the remaining percentage of the team, and Leonsis should get control of the Wizards before the end of the NBA playoffs, and possibly as early as the end of May.

Whereas the Bullets name went from excellence in the ‘70s to mediocrity in the ‘80s and to futility in the ‘90s, the Wizards have now failed to make the playoffs in nine of their 13 seasons. The Big Three of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler helped the team to four straight playoff berths, but only made it past the first round once.

The Wizards name, logo, and colors never caught on in a big way, and Wizards merchandise does not rank among the top half of NBA teams. Meanwhile, retro versions of old Bullets uniforms have become huge sellers.

Would Grevey like the Wizards to someday change their name back to the Bullets?

“Of course I would. Everybody who played for the Bullets was disappointed to see the Bullets change the name. It was Abe Pollin’s team and he deserved to do whatever he wanted to, and he did it for an admirable reason because of the political correctness. I just wish they were called the Bullets.”

Leonsis recently took down the much criticized Washington Mystics “Attendance Champions” banners from the Verizon Center and has a well-deserved reputation for listening to fans. The Caps have become one of the most fan-friendly franchises in the NHL, and Leonsis answers all email from fans. Is it possible that Leonsis might change the name back to the Bullets someday?

“I hope he does,” said Grevey. “I think Ted will hear from the fans and I think a lot of fans would love to get back to the great history that we have.”

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the article about Kevin Grevey and the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets.

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