While covering the Wiz-Lakers game back on the 14th, there was something special about watching the Lakers play the game. Despite their inconsistent play, carousel of coaches, and philosophies and schemes the Lake Show have already gone through this early in the season, seeing Antawn Jamison back at the Verizon Center brought back a lot great memories for me as a fan.
Long before I began my journey, I was much like the rest of you out there: an outraged, embarrassed and distraught Washington D.C. basketball fan who only looked forward to going to Verizon Center for Caps games and the BB&T Classic. Then, out of nowhere, the Wizards became relevant, at least according to their recent standards. Insert Gilbert Arenas via free agency and a gritty and versatile shooter like Caron Butler and you have two solid scorers starting on your team.
But despite all the game winning shots Gilbert would make, or the clutch baseline 3's that Caron used to drain, my favorite player to watch was always Antawn Jamison.
Gilbert stole the spotlight in the brief four-year run that the trio had together, but Jamison was the most consistent player. Not only was he a leader on the court, but a great locker room guy and was a huge part of the community during his time here. If Wizards fan close their eyes, they can still imagine Jamison taking the running, one handed floater that somehow always seemed to go in. He was a walking double-double.
It seemed like every night you could count on 20 points and 10 rebounds from the Wizards all-star. In a lot of ways, he was Kevin Love before anyone knew Kevin Love. He was a tough match up for defenders playing the Wizards because they had to prepare for him to attack the paint off the dribble or drain a three.
One night I won't forget as a Wizards fan was when the Wizards and Knicks played at the Garden back on December 6, 2006 and Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison threw a 3-point party. Both players hit six 3's in the game and collectively shot 12/17 from 3-point range for the game. Jamison shot 75% from behind the arc. I vividly remember watching the TV and seeing that huge grin on Jamison's smile and thinking to myself, "This is my team!" Finally, for once, we had a tradition, culture and some credibility.
That was obviously short lived.
Jamison's time here as a Wizard was the closest thing this team has had as far as consistency from a player in a long time. He never averaged less than 16.3 points per game and every year he was here, his rebounding average per game rose. In his first season with the Wiz Kids in 2004, he averaged 7.6 rebounds per game and by the time he finished his last full season, he w as averaging a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Antawn gave this team, this organization and its fans something to look forward to. We don't expect much as far as individual performances out of our players here in Washington, but as sports fans, we appreciate hard work and dedication, and Jamison had all of that.
After the locker room gun incident with Gilbert Arenas, Jamison took the role as captain on the team and addressed the Verizon Center crowd after a picture surfaced of him and the rest of the team in a pregame warm up shedding light on the situation by using their fingers as guns.
Jamison went out during the next home game and addressed the media and fans on behalf of his entire team to show that the team did not mean to shed a negative light on the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, for all the great things that Jamison, Arenas and that whole era of Wizards basketball did for this city, that crew will ultimately be remembered here by the negative actions that lead to the dismantling of the roster and eventually, the entire coaching staff.
On my way out of the Verizon Center last Friday, I took a minute just to say hello and chat with Jamison. His popularity amongst the Verizon Center staff has not diminished one bit. One after another, different members of the security staff, Wizards locker room crew and old school members of the media made their way to chat with Antawn instead of Dwight Howard. He greeted all of us with the same level of respect and class and joked with us as if he were all lifelong friends.
For all the negativity that surrounds this city in terms of basketball and despite the heartbreaking loss to the Lakers last Friday, Jamison gave us a small break from the current reality and reminded us what life was like as a Wizards fan from 04 to 08.
As I rushed to finish my post game and get to work, I managed to ask him what the best part of playing in D.C. was and he told me, "you guys". I wouldn't have expected any other answer from one of the classier athletes in this city's brief history.