It’s been a long time coming. Well, 35 years to be exact. That’s how long this drought has lasted. To put it into perspective, the nation’s capital has not had a NBA championship since Jimmy Carter was the POTUS.
Despite the recent history, the Wizards/Bullets organization has not lacked in the talent department, whatsoever. A total of 11 players who have donned the Bullets/Wizards jersey have entered the Hall of Fame… names like Unseld, Hayes, Monroe, Malone and King. On top of this, a slew of past All-Stars as well like Jeff Malone, Michael Adams, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber and Gilbert Arenas.
Surprisingly, this trend of futility on the court while acquiring talented individuals have continued with the young and dangerous backcourt dual of John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with newly drafted Hoya, Otto Porter Jr. It is what it is, That being said, here’s a look at the 25 greatest players in franchise history.
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25. REX CHAPMAN
One of the toughest spots to fill. This is the equivalent to ranking the 100th greatest basketball shoe ever produced between the years of 1985 to 1995 under the price of $100. Sure, this University of Kentucky product didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding him coming out of high school, but he was never afraid to jack up a shot and had his share of moments. Though he never led a Bullets team to the playoffs, he generated plenty of exciting moments in his three-plus seasons.
24. RICHARD HAMILTON
A NCAA standout, capping his three-year career at the University of Connecticut with a NCAA championship, was picked seventh in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Wizards. In his third and final season with the Wizards, he averaged 20 ppg while helping to lead the team, along with an aging Michael Jordan, to a 37-45 record. Though he would go on to spend his peak years with the Detroit Pistons, he left his mark as a deadly midrange shooter that could run for days.
23. TERRY DISCHINGER
Originally drafted by the Chicago Zephyrs in their last season in Chicago, then playing in one inaugural season with the Baltimore Bullets, Dischinger averaged a solid 22.7 ppg over the course of two seasons. He was an All-Star both seasons and won Rookie of the Year in the 1962-63 season.
22. LARRY HUGHES
After a frustrating first season in Washington having to play the third fiddle to Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Jordan, upon Gilbert Arenas’ arrival Hughes found his rhythm. Hawking passing lanes and harassing others with his help-side defense, Hughes averaged an All-Star-like 22 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.7 apg and 2.9 spg (led the NBA) in 2004-05. Though he was able to leverage that season into a lucrative multi-year deal with Cleveland, he was never able to duplicate that level of success elsewhere.
21. MICHAEL ADAMS
A diminutive, undersized point guard with an unusual hitch in his jump shot, there were many doubters when Adams entered the league after a solid college career at Boston College. Generously listed at 5-10, he was waived twice within an 11-month period and traded, all within a 2-year period, to start off his NBA career. By the time the 1991 season rolled around, Adam had established himself as a potent scorer and distributor. He averaged a solid 15.1 ppg from 1991-1994 with the then-Bullets and led the team in assists all three seasons.
20. HARVEY GRANT
As the lesser known of the Grant twins, Harvey carved out a solid niche for himself one some forgettable Bullets teams. Unlike his larger twin, Harvey was a combo forward that excelled in the in-between game. He would have been an excellent stretch power forward in today’s game. Though he had two stints with the organization, he is most known for his earlier days, especially during a three-year stretch when he averaged 18.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 1.1 spg.
19. JEFF RULAND
Some of younger readers might not remember this guy, but he was an absolute monster down low. Prone to hard fouls and eating up rebounds at a high rate, Ruland was an overlooked big man. If his career had not been cut short because of injuries, and had he played a solid 10 years, he could have had the makings of a more productive Marc Gasol. His stats with the Bullets were 18.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 3.3 apg and shot well over 55 percent during his tenure.
18. MICHAEL JORDAN
It just doesn’t feel right. God agrees. MJ, at nothing less than at number one goes against every fiber of every basketball fan that’s ever laid eyes on an NBA game. But let’s get the facts straight: two seasons, no playoffs and subpar averages. He even took some nights off because of his advanced age, and also he even came off the bench, THE BENCH, for 15 games in his second season. With that being said, his Air-ness still dropped 21.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 4.4 apg but he just wasn’t the same.
17. JOHN WALL
If this article is re-written in five years, you better believe John Wall will be higher on this list. At least that’s what all Wizards fan secretly hope. One can never count out the Wizards from being susceptible from Murphy’s Law, which is just a fact. His physical gifts are undeniable and his potential, limitless. During his last month of the regular season in 2012-2013, he averaged 24 ppg, 7.3 apg and 4.8 rpg in 36.3 mpg. If he can maintain anything close to that level for a whole season, the playoffs should not be a problem.
16. CARON BUTLER
A two-time All-Star while with the Wizards, Butler, along with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, led the team to two playoff appearances. A terror in the passing lanes, along with the ability to score in any fashion, “Tough Juice” was a key cog in the Wizards re-emergence and relevance. He never shot below 85.8 percent from the free throw line, and averaged over 20 ppg in his last two full seasons with the ‘Zards.
15. MOSES MALONE
It doesn’t matter what you think. He only played two seasons with the Bullets towards the end of his career, you say? So what. He was nothing like he was in his glory days? Who cares. He still averaged 22 ppg, 11.5 rpg and 1.1 bpg in his two seasons. Wrecking havoc in the paint, he would attempt over nine free throws per game. The work ethic, the badass-ness and general aura that he brought to the Bullets was something that couldn’t be replaced. Oh, and the Bullets went to the playoffs both seasons while Moses was in town. What you think now?
14. CHRIS WEBBER
Talk about what could have been. C-Webb only scraped his potential while with the Bullets/Wizards. Teaming up with his college running mate, Juwan Howard, in his second season in the league, he terrorized opponents with his overall burgeoning game and brute physical prowess. If not for a few off-the-court incidents and reoccurring shoulder injury, he should have been a Bullet/Wizard for his entire career. Twenty-one ppg, 9.7 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.7 bpg while shooting around 50 percent from the field are Hall of Fame numbers. Only if.
13. ROD STRICKLAND
One of the most underrated point guards of his era, Strickland was a god-send. After the frustration of having to rely on Brent Price and Robert Pack, the Bullets sent a promising young power forward in Rasheed Wallace and veteran Mitchell Butler to the Trail Blazers for Rod Strickland and Harvey Grant. He was able to right the ship immediately, helping to lead the young Bullets to the playoffs where they were swept by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. But Strickland’s ability to direct traffic and distribute, along with his uncanny ability to get to the rim, rates him as the best pure distributor the Bullets/Wizards organization has ever had. That is, until John Wall takes that title from him.
12. JUWAN HOWARD
More known for his presence in the locker room and on the bench with the Miami Heat, people forget Howard was an All-Star while donning a Bullets uniform. There’s a reason why Pat Riley offered over $100 million dollars at a 22-year-old Howard. He was coming off a season averaging 22 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 4.4 apg and the Heat was looking to team him up with Alonzo Mourning, but due to some salary cap miscalculations, Howard remained with the Bullets where he would continue a productive career but never quite live up to that monstrous contract either.
11. BERNARD KING
God only knows how good this guy would have been if he had some healthy knees. Average 28.4 ppg when he was 34 years old. The only other NBA player to average more points per game at 34 or older was Michael Jeffrey Jordan, himself. Think about that. Let it simmer. Now, realize that Bernard King wasn’t the all-around player Jordan was, and would definitely be higher on this list if he had been healthier or spent more time in a Bullets uniform.
10. BOBBY DANDRIDGE
Though Dandridge played only three seasons with the Bullets, he played in the one that mattered, the 1977-78 championship team. He had just come over from the Milwaukee Bucks as a free agent, and he was exactly what the team needed to get over that hump. His midrange shooting and ability to slash to the basket were a critical complement to Wes Unseld’s bruising play and Elvin Hayes’ general dominance inside. He was also selected to four All-Star Games and owned career averages of 18.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.3 spg.
9. ANTAWN JAMISON
He only missed the playoffs once in his full five seasons with the Wizards. Teaming up with his old teammate from Golden State, Agent Zero, he helped preside over the greatest stretch in the modern history of the Wizards organization. His most brilliant stretch came against the Cleveland Cavs in the first round of the playoffs where he went off for 32 ppg and 9.8 rpg in a four-game sweep. Despite this individual brilliance, he will be remembered for his consistent excellence and approach to the game.
8. JEFF MALONE
It doesn’t happen in this day and age — a 6-4 shooting guard averages 24.3 ppg while only making one 3-pointer in an entire season? That’s just unheard of. Even explosive point guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose would make an occasional 3-pointer now and then. Jeff Malone was just a pure scorer that could put the ball in the hole in every which way. But his specialty was being able to utilize picks to discard his defender for open shots. Not only that, he played on five consecutive playoffs and he also made two All-Star teams.
7. EARL “The Pearl” MONROE
In terms of monikers, Earl Monroe had the greatest of all time: “Jesus.” Who else has that name in real life? Take out the Bible and Spike Lee joints, who else? This man personified style on the court. After averaging 41.5 ppg his senior year at Winston-Salem State University, the Baltimore Bullets selected him with the second overall pick. He quickly garnered the adulation of fans and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award after averaging 24.4 ppg. But his legacy will always be about his flamboyance, ability to handle the ball with the seamless fluidity and eye-popping playmaking. Monroe was truly an unique talent, not only in his day but also in today’s game as well.
6. PHIL CHENIER
My heart goes out to Phil Chenier. Not only because he’s had to do the color commentating for this franchise since 1987, but because he missed out on the apex of his playing career due to a back injury. Kevin Grevey would replace in him the starting lineup and the Bullets went on to defeat the Seattle Supersonics 4-3. Two things never happened again: Chenier never cracked the starting lineup for the Bullets and he never won a title while in uniform. And a nasty incident involving Walt Frazier is what most people outside of the DC area will remember him by. Consolation: Chenier was a promising young shooting guard that averaged over 20 ppg three times during an entire season, and was selected to three All-Star Games and Second-Team All-NBA in the 1974 season.
5. GILBERT ARENAS
How quickly people forget. Agent Zero was a bad man; just ask the Lakers, his hometown team. The Hibachi dropped a 6-0 spot on them in the Staples Center on the night of December 17, 2006, breaking Earl Monroe’s franchise single game record. Dude averaged almost 30 ppg for a whole season in the 2005-2006 season at 6-3 while dishing 6.1 apg. It’s not just the numbers, though. He single handedly brought excitement back to the District of Columbia. He had everyone in the city talking about the Wizards. Even Tony Reali, a.k.a. Statboy at the time, of ESPN fame, was doubting LeBron James and the Cavs chances against them. It’s true, this conversation actually took place in a rooftop bar in Adams Morgan. But alas, after a few knee surgeries and an ill-fated locker room incident involving a teammate along with a few firearms, Arenas’ brilliant career with the Wizards came to an abrupt and unfortunate end. It’s still amazing how quickly some people forget.
4. WALT BELLAMY
A full-blown man-child, he averaged over 31 ppg and 19 rpg his rookie season with the Chicago Packers. Bellamy posted arguably the greatest rookie season of any NBA player except Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. Though he only played four seasons with the Packers/Zephyrs/Bullets organization, he put up a not too shabby 27.8 ppg and 16.7 rpg. He put up absolute video game numbers, oh and he was selected to the All-Star Game all four seasons and eventually to the Hall of Fame.
3. GUS JOHNSON
One of the first NBA players that made dunking an art form. At 6-6, he wasn’t the tallest player but he played above the rim, without a doubt. For his career, Johnson averaged 17.1 ppg and 12.7 rpg, was selected to five All-Star Games and twice named to the All-Defensive First-Team. A rugged two-way player, Gus Johnson helped put the Bullets on the map. An interesting fact about Johnson was that he entered the NBA at the age of 25, and thus, only got to play in the NBA for 10 years. His number 25 jersey was retired when Johnson was 48 years old, shortly after it was discovered that he had terminal brain cancer. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, 23 years after his death.
2. WES UNSELD
A franchise-changing player, Unseld possessed some of the most unique talents and at only 6-7 while playing center, he was truly one of a kind. Unseld, along with Wilt Chamberlain, were the only two players in the history of the NBA to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season. Unseld put up 13.8 ppg and 18.3 rpg that season, foreshadowing a long and productive career. He also happens to be the all-time leader in total assists in franchise history. Known for his incredible ability to throw a quick and effective “outlet” pass to initiate a fast break, Unseld was a cornerstone player for the 1977-78 championship team, as well as leading the organization to three other NBA Finals. The only reason why he is not the greatest Bullet/Wizard of all time is the fact that as a head coach and GM he was horrendous. Due to Abe Pollin‘s affinity and loyalty to Unseld, he kept Wes around a bit too long, thus, allowing him to tarnish his legacy as a player.
1. ELVIN HAYES
After an illustrious collegiate career, the Big E was the first selection in the 1968 NBA Draft by the San Diego Rockets. While in college, he was the only player ever to make Lew Alcindor of UCLA seem human in the first ever nationally televised NCAA basketball game, dubbed the “Game of the Century” in the Houston Astrodome. Hayes holds the franchise records in field goals made, free throws made, points, offensive rebounds and blocks. Hayes and Unseld were a fearsome frontcourt with Unseld providing the basketball IQ and brute will to win, while Hayes provided the scoring and rim protection, while commanding double-teams from opposing defenses. The Big E was also selected to 12 All-Star Games in a row from 1968 to 1980, and was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1990.
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