The Washington Wizards began as the Chicago Packers in 1961. Just two years later, they relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, taking on the name Bullets. Another move was on the horizon. By 1973, they settled in Landover, Maryland. After playing a season as the Capital Bullets, 1974 marked their transition to the Washington Bullets. It wasn’t until 1995 that owner Abe Pollin decided on a rebrand, renaming them the Washington Wizards due to concerns over the term bullet.
The Golden Era of the 1970s
A playoff appearance graced the team in the 1964–65 season. Yet, it was the 1970s when the Bullets truly shined. The talents of players like Earl Monroe, Gus Johnson, Wes Unseld, and Elvin Hayes turned them into regular championship contenders. Six division titles were secured in this period. Their crowning achievement was an NBA title in the 1977–78 season. Despite a regular season record of 44-38, they pulled off a series of playoff upsets to claim the championship.
Dwindling Fortunes and Big Changes
Post-1970s, the Bullets still saw playoffs, with standouts like Jeff Malone, Moses Malone, and Bernard King. However, only one playoff berth was achieved between the 1988–89 and 2003–04 seasons. In 2000, the landscape shifted. NBA legend Michael Jordan became the team’s minority owner and president of basketball operations. His return to the court the next year was much anticipated, but it didn’t have the expected impact. A surprising decision followed his 2003 retirement: he wasn’t retained as team president, leading to some raised eyebrows.
A New Generation of Stars
The mid-2000s saw the Wizards rise again. All-Stars Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler steered them back to the playoffs. However, the 2008–09 season was a setback, leading to trading away several star players. John Wall, the brilliant point guard, breathed new life into the team. The 2013–14 season marked their return to the playoffs. The 2016–17 season, led by Wall, brought them a division title after a 38-year drought. A tough seven-game series in the conference semifinals concluded their journey that year. They managed another playoff appearance the next year but faced a first-round exit. Wall’s injury in the 2018–19 season was a blow, resulting in a 32-game win season and no playoff contention.
The Transformative Years of 2019-2023
After firing general manager Ernie Grunfeld, Tommy Sheppard took over. Key roster moves included drafting Rui Hachimura and trading for stars like Russell Westbrook. However, after mixed season outcomes, Westbrook was traded for Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, and Harrell. Injuries plagued key players, with Bradley Beal’s wrist surgery sidelining him. A significant trade brought in Kristaps Porzingis. Despite these changes, consecutive playoff misses led to the 2023 dismissal of GM Tommy Sheppard.