Washington Wizards: ESPN’s Top 74 NBA Players List Highlights Major Issue

How many Washington Wizards and Bullets does the worldwide leader consider to be among the best to ever do it?

In honor of the NBA’s 74-year history, ESPN has concocted a list of the 74 greatest players of all time.

Among the 74 players listed, the Washington Wizards franchise was fairly well represented. Seven of the 74 players listed spent at least a part of their storied careers in D.C.

Here’s how the franchise’s best stacked up…

A deserving group, no doubt. However, it’s not exactly a young list.

Of course, not everyone can be the Los Angeles Lakers or the Boston Celtics. Each of those franchises has 17 players from the list that spent at least one season in their city. But Washington is represented better than some other teams out there, including the Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Utah Jazz. At least the Bullets are.

The big glaring takeaway from this list is that since rebranding from the Bullets to the Wizards in 1997, not one single player fro the list of 74 greats spent the bulk of their time in Washington while becoming one of the NBA’s best.

Technically, Michael Jordan and Paul Pierce check the box for “21st-century legend.” However, it’s no secret that neither of these all-time greats cemented their legacy in D.C. Both were in their twilight when they came to the nation’s capital.

Although Pierce’s playoff game-winner (and almost game-winner) may have added a few worthwhile chapters to his book, in reality, Pierce was a fourth option on that 2014-15 Wizards team. Not quite a role befitting one of the NBA’s greatest of all time. So let’s take him out of the argument and (rightfully) assign his legacy to the Celtics.

Jordan’s legacy may have actually gotten worse while playing in Washington. His numbers were solid (21.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per night on 48.0 percent true shooting), especially given his age and time away from the game, but that wasn’t Michael Jordan, His Airness. 

With Pierce and Jordan out of the equation, the most recent Washingtonian to grace the list is Bernard King. He last played for the Bullets in 1993…nearly 27 years ago.

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad since then. Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler were a fun and competitive squad in the mid-2000s. The Wall/Beal era has been electric (at times) and is far from over. But the franchise has yet to win 50 games in a season since rebranding.

To find a 50-win season, you’d have to go all the way back to the Washington Bullets days; 1978-79, to be exact. The Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets hold the other two longest 50-win droughts. The Hornets last won 50+ games during the 1997-98 season. The Nets last did it during the 2001-02 season.

And along the way, Washington has let future studs like Chris Webber, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, and Richard Hamilton all get away before they hit their primes. Now, none of those four guys had top-74 careers with their other teams, but they did have a combined15 all-star appearances after leaving Washington.

Next: Wall should heed own advice when he returns

All hope is not lost, though. If Wall and Beal can run it back like they (and the rest of D.C.) want to, pick up the pieces right where they left them, and make some real noise in the East for seasons to come, they may find their names on ESPN’s next all-time list. But they’ll need to win at a near-unprecedented level (by this franchise’s standards) in order to do so.

For now, though, they’re chasing the legends, and they still have some work to do. The whole team – no – the whole franchise does.

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