Posts Tagged ‘Washington Bullets’

ESPN’s feature of NBA players at Great Wall of China forgot Washington Bullets’ trip in 1979

October 17, 2013

I had to mention that ESPN’s piece on NBA players visiting the Great Wall of China failed to mention that the Washington Bullets were the first team to do so back in 1979, which was very significant at the time. If any other NBA team had been there, ESPN would have mentioned it. It’s a shame that they have forgotten the Washington Bullets.

Never been busier in my life but I felt I had to post this.

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Mitch Kupchak was a very good NBA player for the Washington Bullets and L.A. Lakers

March 4, 2012
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Former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak at a charity event in Gaithersburg, Maryland in 1980. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

I recently wrote an article on Examiner.com about how professional journalists continue to pronounce Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak’s name wrong. (It’s Kup-CHAK, not Kup-CHEK). That’s pretty pathetic.  Anyway, Kupchak has 10 NBA championship rings – seven with the Lakers as an executive, two as a player, and one as a player for the Washington Bullets in 1978. Kupchak was an All-America at North Carolina, ACC Player of the Year, started on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal, and played a key role as a member of the ’78 Bullets and ’85 Lakers championship teams. Jerry West put together most of the Lakers’ title teams, but Kupchak deserves credit for at least the two most recent ones.  Anyway, if Kupchak led the Knicks to a title rather than the Bullets, everyone would pronounce his name right.

It’s too bad how we always forget the past. Now I’m getting a little off topic, but Charles Barkley always mentions himself, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman as the best power forwards ever, and he never mentions Elvin Hayes, as if basketball wasn’t played before Barkley’s era.

Never forget the Washington Bullets, the 1978 NBA champions.

Click here to read my article on Mitch Kupchak on Examiner.com.

Irene Pollin says she would be ok with a change from Washington Wizards to Bullets

December 26, 2011

There have been rumblings the last few years for the Washington Wizards to change their name back to the Bullets. Owner Ted Leonsis has already changed the uniforms back to the familiar red, white, and blue the Bullets wore. However, Ted has consistently said he won’t contemplate a name change back to the Bullets. It was just two years ago that former owner Abe Pollin died, and Pollin changed the name to the Wizards in 1997 to be more politically correct.

But Pollin’s widow, Irene Pollin, recently told the Washington Post that she wouldn’t oppose a name change back to Bullets if that’s what the fans want. That opens the door a crack for a possible name change, although it wouldn’t be prudent to go overboard on this for fear of jinxing the possibility.

So this morning I revised and republished parts of an interview I did in 2010 with former Bullet Kevin Grevey, a starter on the 1978 NBA championship team. You can read the article here on Bleacher Report.Image

Washington Post Bog’s Dan Steinberg: Will Wizards change name to Washington Monuments?

May 12, 2011

Washington Bullets Wes Unseld retro jersey. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

After a local sports blogger sent a tweet out asking if the Washington Wizards were thinking of changing their name to the Washington Monuments, the Post’s Dan Steinberg raised the topic on his Sports Bog.  Steinberg noted that the Washington Monument is featured in the Wizards’ new red, white, and blue uniforms and one of the logos unveiled Tuesday, and the name of the group that owns the Wizards, Caps, and Mystics is called Monumental Sports and Enterainment.

Steinberg is an often entertaining and sometimes informative writer. He regularly refers back to the original sources from which he gets his information. He’s an expert at scouring the internet and old sports archives to find out what was written years ago. That’s why I’m a bit disappointed that he didn’t credit me for originally mentioning the possible Washington Monuments name in an article I wrote for Examiner.com June 11, 2010, even after I emailed him about it yesterday. Maybe the Post doesn’t like to update online stories after they have originally been published.  Here’s an excerpt from that article I wrote 11 months ago.

“In an email Thursday to fans of Leonsis’ other major sports franchise, the Capitals, he wrote, “By now you have probably heard the news that my partners and I have completed our purchase of the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center and created a new company – Monumental Sports & Entertainment – that owns those entities as well as the Capitals and the Mystics.”

The Washington Monuments?

Could the Wizards change their name to the “Washington Monuments” in the future? Though Leonsis denied the possibility of any name change, the name of the new company could be a clue to a future franchise name. “Monumental Sports” is an awkward name, but “Washington Monuments” does have a ring to it. If Leonsis had mentioned a name change as a possibility, speculation by the media and fans could have taken away from the product on the court, so it was smart for Leonsis to deny the possibility of a potential future name change. Leonsis has said he doesn’t want to disrespect the wishes of Pollin, who stated that he changed the name from Bullets to Wizards because of the city’s gun violence, so a name change back to the Bullets would be a long shot.

The Washington Monuments goes with the Capitals theme, as the Washington Monument stands at the other end of the national mall from the Capitol. The name also identifies the team with something that is uniquely Washington, and the Washington Monument, like a basketball player, is very tall. There would also be no problem with franchises in other sports and leagues for rights to the name.

There’s no natural short nickname for Monuments like there is for the other local franchises – Skins, Caps, Nats, and United – but they could be called the “M’s” for short, as Seattle calls its Mariners. Or could the “Monsters” be a shortened version? The team could market the Monuments and the Capitals together, on the same shirt for example, with a scene of the Capitol and the Washington Monument.  The Verizon Center is also in fairly close proximity to the national mall.”

Anyway, for the record, while the Monuments name makes some sense, I don’t think it would be a good idea to rename the team “Monuments,” which would be the franchise’s third name in 15-20 years.  I still hold out hope, as most old Bullets fans do, that Ted Leonsis will rename the team the Bullets in a couple of years, because it never should have been changed in the first place. It’s probably a longshot, but longtime Bullets fans can only hope that Leonsis will at least consider the option.

As for Steinberg, he said in a video chat that he suggests the name “Justice like everybody wants.”  Wait, what?  Steinberg and his Post colleague Mike (un) Wise suggest “Justice,” but there’s no way that “everybody wants” that.  That would be a huge mistake.  The vast majority of fans want the team to return to its Bullets name.  Steinberg and Wise don’t care about the team’s great history, which includes an NBA championship in 1978, because they weren’t here then, and you have to do more than look up old articles to understand D.C. sports.

To read my D.C. sports articles on Examiner.com, click here.

John Wall and Nick Young lead Washington Bullets over Utah Jazz 108-101

January 18, 2011

I’m going to start referring to the Washington Wizards as the Bullets on my blog, because the name never should have been changed.  I’ll continue to refer to the team as the Wizards on Examiner.com and Guysnation.com, but here on my blog they will be the Bullets.

John Wall had 19 points and a career high 15 assists, and Nick Young scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half to lead the Bullets to a 108-101 victory over the Utah Jazz Monday at Verizon Center.

The Bullets led almost the entire second half as their athleticism was enough to get by the discipline and defense of Utah. Washington raised its home record to 12-8 in front of an announced crowd of 14,925.  The Bullets are winless in 19 games on the road.

The Bullets pulled away from the Jazz in the third quarter during a 21-8 run.  Wall, the number one pick in the NBA draft last summer, threw an alley oop pass to Javale McGee who threw down a windmill dunk with his right hand.  McGee’s free throw gave Washington a 62-55 lead.

For the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

Washington Wizards to change colors back to red, white, and blue for 2011-2012 season

September 23, 2010

 

Kevin Grevey goes up for a shot in the Washington Bullets' old red, white and blue uniforms, circa 1980.

 

Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld announced that the Wizards will change their colors back to red, white and blue for the 2011-2012 season, a move that has been rumored for months.

This comes as great news for longtime Washington Bullets fans, who never liked the change of the name to Wizards or the change of the colors to blue and bronze.

Unfortunately, the Wizards will probably never go back to the name Bullets, but at least owner Ted Leonsis will change the colors back to red, white, and blue, fitting for a team in the nation’s capital.  The Wizards, Caps, and Nats will all wear patriotic colors.

(The Redskins can’t change from burgundy and gold – they have such a great tradition with those colors, but wasn’t it great to see the Skins wearing gold pants?  The team is paying homage to its great past.)

Here’s hoping that the Wizards’ new unis won’t be 99% red like the Caps’ and Nats’ uniforms.  Keep some blue.  Also, add back the stars on the shorts.  The photo to the left shows former Bullet Kevin Grevey in the Bullets’ old road uniforms.  The photo below shows a retro Wes Unseld home uniform.  Both were among the best in the history of the NBA.

It’s a great move by Leonsis, but it’s also a no-brainer.  Now maybe Leonsis will improve the Wizards’ website and add more history about the old Bullets.  It’s a shame that that 1978 championship team has been virtually forgotten.

(It doesn’t help that the deans of DC sports media, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, both arrived in D.C. a couple of years after the Bullets’ title, so they always pretend it never happened.  They’ll talk a ton about the Knicks and the Bulls of the 1970s, though.)

 

This retro Wes Unseld jersey has become one of the NBA's biggest sellers. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

 

In emails over the last several months, Leonsis has vowed to improve the franchise’s recognition of its great history, but quite frankly, Leonsis hasn’t kept his word.

I complained multiple times that it was impossible — not hard, but impossible — to get an Elvin Hayes Bullets jersey from the Wizards or anywhere on the internet.  (Ok, you can get one from southeast Asia on ebay, but it doesn’t look right).  Keep in mind that the Big E was the 23rd-best player in the history of the NBA according to Slam Magazine, ahead of players such as Bob Cousy, David Robinson, Willis Reed, Kevin Garnett, Wes Unseld, Walt Frazier, and Patrick Ewing.

Leonsis assured me that someone would get back to me — no one ever did.  I left messages with Wizards’ personnel and no one called back, and no one really knew what I was talking about.

Being a great owner takes more than designing a good website and not being Daniel Snyder.  It takes keeping your word.

Also see the following Examiner articles and blog posts:

Leonsis won’t change name of Wizards to Bullets but may change colors back to red, white and blue

Part 1: Former Washington Bullet Kevin Grevey on the ’78 NBA title season, Kentucky, and the Wizards

Part 2: Former Washington Bullet Kevin Grevey on the ’78 NBA title season, Kentucky, and the Wizards

32 years ago: Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, and Washington Bullets win NBA championship

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

Former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak: 8 NBA championship rings

Mitch Kupchak and the 1978 Washington Bullets: NBA Champions


Funeral held for former Washington Bullet Manute Bol, 7’7″ giant devoted life to help war-torn Sudan

July 1, 2010

The funeral for former Washington Bullets 7’7″ center Manute Bol was held Tuesday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Bol played 10 seasons in the NBA and became a prolific shot blocker, but was best known for his humanitarian work in his native war-torn Sudan.

Bol died at the age of 47 of kidney failure and complications from the skin condition Stevens-Johnson syndrome at University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville June 19. Bol had made trips to Sudan in recent years and was given medication that may have resulted in side effects that caused Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Approximately 150 people attended Bol’s funeral, where former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), friends, and relatives spoke. Former teammates including Chris Mullin attended the funeral, as did former Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry, who drafted Bol in the second round in 1985, and former NBA players Buck Williams and Rory Sparrow.

Bol was a great humanitarian and will be sorely missed. To see the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.  All photos below by Mike Frandsen.

Former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak: 8 NBA championship rings

June 19, 2010

Former Washington Bullet and current L.A. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, circa 1981. Photo by Mike Frandsen

Congratulations to former Washington Bullet Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers general manager, for putting together back-to-back NBA champions.

Is anybody ever going to pronounce Kupchak’s name correctly? It’s Kup-CHAK, not Kup-CHEK.  First, it was Jim Rome, who has done his show from L.A. for many years, who mispronounced his name over and over.  Then it was Ernie Johnson of TNT.  Then after Game 7 of the NBA finals it was NBA Commissioner David Stern saying “Kup-check.”  There have probably been many others.

How bout some respect for Kupchak, who has 8 NBA championship rings?  Kupchak won three championships as a player (one with the Washington Bullets in 1978 when he averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds as a reserve, one with the Lakers in ’82, and one with the Lakers in ’85), and five as a general manager.  Ok, Jerry West built the Kobe-Shaq threepeat Lakers, but Kupchak built the team that has made the finals now three years in a row, winning each of the last two seasons.

Kupchak averaged double figures in points for five of his first six seasons in the NBA, and overall, averaged 19 points a game for his nine NBA seasons when his minutes are projected over 36 minutes.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, one of the most respected sportswriters in the country, wrote two years ago, “Neither the 1978 Bullets nor the 1985 Lakers could have won championships” without Kupchak.

By the way, Kupchak also won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and was an All-American at North Carolina.

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

May 22, 2010

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.

Former Washington Bullet Kevin Grevey on the ’78 NBA title season, Kentucky, and the Wizards

May 13, 2010

Kevin Grevey of the Washington Bullets shoots over former Kentucky teammate Rick Robey of the Boston Celtics.

Before the Redskins won their first Super Bowl, and before Maryland and Georgetown won national championships in college basketball, the Washington Bullets gave D.C. its first championship in 36 years when they won the NBA title in 1978.

Before the blue and bronze of the Washington Wizards, there was the red, white, and blue of the Washington Bullets. Local musician Nils Lofgren wrote a hit song, “Bullets Fever,”  that was played over and over during the spring of 1978 on Washington radio stations. The name Bullets was synonymous with winning, as they made the playoffs 18 times in 20 seasons in the ’70s and ’80s.

For the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.