With reports coming out today that there will be a press conference tomorrow to officially announce the nickname change of the New Orleans Hornets to the New Orleans Pelicans, it’s only right to look back on the time when Abe Pollin made the decision to change the name from the Washington Bullets to the Washington Wizards.
Supposedly influenced by the increasing number of gun-related deaths in the D.C. area, Pollin announced in 1995 that he was considering changing the name of the team that had been associated with the franchise for 31 years.
He was already going through a face-change with the team after acquiring Juwon Howard and Chris Webber and was planning to change not only the uniforms that the players would wear, but the venue they would play in, as well. Rumors went around that when the Bullets moved their home from the US Air Arena in Prince George’s County to the (then) MCI Center in Downtown D.C., the Bullets would no longer retain their name.
The rumors became true. Pollin mentioned that the name of the team was supposed to represent that the team was “faster than a speeding bullet…” but it was quickly gaining a more negative connotation in the area.
With the pending move to what would become the Phone Booth, the franchise invited fans to name the new team. What’s best about this part is that voting took place at area Boston Market restaurants. With the fans in the driver’s seat for the new name, these brilliant citizens came up with these names as the finalists for the new team:
“Dragons”, “Express”, “Sea Dogs”, “Stallions” and “Wizards”
“Wizards” (obviously) ended up winning out and thus became the nickname to the new-look, new-home professional basketball team in D.C.
It’s been hypothesized that with Ted Leonsis’s acquisition of the team, it would mean a possible return to the name “Bullets” due to not only the suggestions of the fans, but the changing of the team colors back to red, white and blue, as well.
While Leonsis won’t commit one way or another to the possible name change, a couple of things remain certain:
It could, as always, have been worse. What if the “Sea Dogs” had won out. What would the logo look like? Who would really be proud to call themselves a “sea dog”.
And if there’s any solace to be had in the name change almost 16 years ago, it’s that the fans picked the name. The Bullets franchise didn’t get screwed by the owners and moved back to Baltimore and the owners certainly didn’t mandate the name “Wizards” or God forbid “Sea Dogs”.
So when the tough season and overall negative franchise image begins to bother you, just remember: at least we have a team to root for.