Posts Tagged ‘Wes Unseld’

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


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

June 8, 2010

It happened 32 years ago today.  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 day and night 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.

The Bullets were a successful team in the 1970s, with winning records in nine of 10 seasons. They won more than 50 games four times, including 60 wins in 1974-75. They made it to the NBA finals four times.

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

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.

New Rule: Washington D.C. residents need to know the names of the local NBA, NHL, and MLB teams (Wizards, Caps, Nats)

January 13, 2010

I’m making a new rule.  If you live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, you need to know that the Wizards are the area’s pro basketball team, the Capitals are the hockey team, and the Nationals are the baseball team.  (Everybody knows that the Redskins are the football team, and unfortunately, it’s too much to ask for people to know that the soccer team is D.C. United).

Last night I met a woman who didn’t know who the Wizards were.  When I told her they were Washington’s NBA team, she laughed and said, “Oh yeah, but they’re new – they’re an expansion team.”  Then I told her that, no, the Wizards were the Bullets before that, and they won the NBA championship in 1978 and appeared in the finals three other times in the 70s.  Both the Wizards and the Caps franchises have been in D.C. for nearly 40 years, and the Bullets were in Baltimore before that.

(The current state of the Wizards is irrelevant.  I predicted disaster for this team in my blogs before the season began).

This has happened now almost 10 times to my estimation – someone doesn’t know who the Wizards are, doesn’t know who the Caps are, or mixes them both up.  This isn’t like the 140-question test on football that one of the characters in the movie “Diner” gave to his fiancé.  Just know the basics.  The names of the teams.  If you don’t, it’s disrespectful.  Disrespectful to yourself, to Washington, to your country, and disrespectful to God.

It’s like with the news.  I may not be an expert, but I can at least tell you the very basics.  I also think people who live here should know the very basics about area geography.

One time I mentioned to a lifelong area resident something about the Caps.  “Oh, they’re the basketball team, right?”  “No, they’re the hockey team,” I said.

A month later, I mentioned something about the Wizards and Caps.  “Which one is the basketball team?” she said.

About another month later, she still didn’t know the difference between the Wizards and the Caps.

Is it too much to ask that you know who the local sports teams are?  I’d never expect anyone to know that D.C. United is the pro soccer team, though it’d be nice.  The Nationals have only been around for five seasons so not knowing them might be slightly less egregious.

The Bullets had two of the NBA’s all-time greatest players – Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld.  Hayes was known as the “Big E.”  The crowd at the Capital Centre used to say, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…” when he went up for one of his patented fadeaway jumpers.  He was also a great rebounder and shot blocker.  Unseld was a center who played great defense and was an excellent rebounder.  He won the Rookie of the Year award and the MVP award in the same season.  His specialty was the outlet pass over his head all the way down the court.  I know, nobody cares.  I’ll probably save this stuff for another blog post.

The Caps made the Stanley Cup finals in 1998 and the semifinals twice, in 1990 and last year.  They have the greatest player in the world in Alex Ovechkin.

Just like local residents should know about the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the museums, you should also at least know who the local sports teams are.

Mitch Kupchak and the 1978 Washington Bullets: NBA Champions

June 17, 2009

Monday on his ESPN show, Jim Rome pronounced L.A. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s name wrong five times.  Rome pronounced it “Kupcheck” instead of “Kupchak.”  Rome should know better.  The worst thing about it is that Rome is based in L.A and Kupchak has been the GM of the Lakers for 9 seasons now. 

This is also Kupchak’s third NBA championship, winning the first two as a player, first with the Washington Bullets in 1978, and then with the Lakers in 1985.  (Kupchak was also on the 1982 Lakers who went on to win the title but only played in 27 games due to injuries).  

I know it’s easy to pick on sportscasters for individual mistakes, but this is a bad one.  Either Rome didn’t know how to pronounce Kupchak’s name or he read it off the teleprompter and didn’t correct the mistake of the writer.  And either way, it’s not too good. 

Kupchak averaged 16 points a game for the 1978 Bullets in just 26 minutes per game.  Kupchak was also an All-American in college, and won a gold medal for the U.S. in 1976.  He was a solid all-around player who worked hard and dove on the floor for loose balls.  

How about some respect for those Bullets, who had two of the greatest 50 players of all-time – Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld, plus Bobby Dandridge, a great small forward? 

Continuing on the subject of mistakes, the same day Sage Steele of ESPN said that the Lakers’ win was the first time an NBA team won the title after losing it the previous year.  Not true – in 1979, Seattle beat the Bullets after losing to them the previous season.  Part of the blame has to go to the writers on that one, though, if she didn’t write it.  

Contrary to popular belief, the NBA didn’t begin with Michael, Magic, and Larry.  Let’s get things right and also have some respect for the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets.