The Washington Wizards have been a franchise of many names and are in their third city (or fourth, if you count Landover). Who are their 25 best players?
Four cities, six different names—such is the legacy of the franchise that has been known as the Washington Wizards since 1997.
The franchise traces its roots to September 1959, when the NBA awarded its first expansion franchise of its modern era to Chicago. The team, named the Packers, would begin play in 1961-62.
The era of the Chicago Packers lasted one season at the International Amphitheatre. A move into the larger Chicago Coliseum for the 1962-63 season was accompanied by a name change—thus it was that the Chicago Zephyrs were born.
The era of the Chicago Zephyrs also lasted a single season before the franchise relocated to Baltimore in 1963 and was renamed the Bullets, the same as the former franchise in the NBA and its predecessor, the Basketball Association of America.
They began play at the Baltimore Civic Center in 1963.
The Baltimore Bullets reached the NBA Finals just once, upsetting their way through the Eastern Conference after a 42-40 regular-season in 1970-71. They were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals, however.
In 1973, the Bullets were on the move and with a new name again, re-minted as the Capital Bullets after moving to the Washington suburb of Landover, Md., and the new Capital Centre.
The franchise took on its fifth name in 1974, rebranded as the Washington Bullets after the National Hockey League awarded the city an expansion team that would be called the Washington Capitals.
The Bullets reached the NBA Finals again in 1974-75, only to be swept again, this time by an underdog Golden State Warriors club.
After a lackluster regular season in which they were just 44-38, Washington stormed back to the NBA Finals in 1977-78, winning the franchise’s first—and to date, only—NBA title by beating the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games.
A return to the Finals in 1978-79 brought a rematch with the Sonics in which the Bullets went down in five games.
In 1997, the team was renamed the Washington Wizards, a decision made by then-owner Abe Pollin to take on a nickname that portrayed a non-violent image.
In December 1997, the team moved from the ‘burbs to the city, taking up residence in the new MCI Center in Washington, which was renamed the Verizon Center in January 2006.
In 55 seasons, the team has been to the postseason 27 times. The Bullets, in their various locations and with their various designations, made the playoffs 12 straight seasons from 1968-69 through 1979-80.
The 1974-75 Bullets squad is the only 60-win team in franchise history, going 60-22. The team has endured six seasons of at least 60 losses.
The worst winning percentage was put together by the expansion Packers in 1961-62 at 18-62 (.225). The 2001-01 and 2008-09 Wizards each were 19-63, setting the club record for losses.
Baltimore was 20-61 in 1966-67, Washington went 21-61 in 1994-95, and the Bullets were 22-60 in 1992-93.
The franchise has an overall record of 2,004-2,447, a winning percentage of .450 that ranks just 24th among the 30 active teams.
The club has had 11 general managers or personnel decision-makers, including one who held the job twice—Wes Unseld from May 1996 to January 2000 and again in May and June 2003.
Bob Ferry held the position the longest, taking over the reins in June 1973 and not relinquishing them until June 1990.
John Nash had the job from June 1990 through April 1996 and current general manager Ernie Grunfeld has been on the job since June 2003.
Ferry is the only executive in franchise history to be named NBA Executive of the Year, winning twice—in 1978-79 and again in 1981-82.
The club has employed 24 coaches in 55 seasons, with Gene Shue the winningest of the bunch at 522-505 in two stints, from December 1966 through the 1972-73 campaign and again from 1980-81 until March 1986.
Unseld, who coached the team from January 1988 through the 1993-94 season, is the only other coach in franchise history with at least 200 victories, assembling a record of 202-345.
Randy Wittman, who was 178-199 in parts of five seasons, was fired at the end of the 2015-16 season. Scott Brooks, formerly of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was hired April 26 as the franchise’s 24th head coach.
Shue is the franchise’s only Coach of the Year winner, taking the honor in Baltimore in 1968-69 and in Washington in 1981-82.
Wiz of Awes
The club has had the No. 1 draft choice four times, twice in the lottery era.
The club has drafted second, third, fourth and fifth on three occasions each.
Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Chicago Packers/Chicago Zephyrs/Baltimore Bullets/Capital Bullets/Washington Bullets/Washington Wizards (whew!).
Players had to have appeared in 150 games and averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game for the team to qualify for this list.
Next: First-Round Pick Came In Firing