The Washington Wizards are an American professional basketball team based in Washington, D.C. The Wizards compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Southeast Division. The team plays its home games at the Capital One Arena, in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The franchise was established in 1961 as the Chicago Packers based in Chicago, Illinois. In 1963, they relocated to Baltimore, Maryland and became the Baltimore Bullets, taking the name from a previous team. In 1973, the team changed its name to the Capital Bullets to reflect their move to the Washington metropolitan area, and then to Washington Bullets in the following season. In 1997, they rebranded themselves as the Wizards. The team has appeared in four NBA Finals and won in 1978. They have had a total of 28 playoff appearances, won four conference titles (1971, 1975, 1978, 1979), and seven division titles (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 2017). Their best season came in 1975 with a record of 60–22. Wes Unseld is the only player in franchise history to become the MVP (1969) and win the Finals MVP award (1978). Four players (Walt Bellamy, Terry Dischinger, Earl Monroe, and Wes Unseld) have won the Rookie of the Year award.
Although they had future Hall of Famers Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld on the team, the Bullets finished the 1977–78 season 44–38 and were a longshot to win the NBA Finals, but San Antonio journalist Dan Cook used the famed phrase "The opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings". This became the rallying cry for the Bullets as they finished a playoff run that led to the NBA Finals, defeating the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games to bring a professional sports championship to Washington, D.C. for the first time in 36 years.
In the 1978–79 NBA season the Bullets moved to the Atlantic Division, capturing the title in their first season there. They entered the 1979 NBA Playoffs having lost eight of the final 11 games to finish the regular season at 54–28. In the playoffs, the Bullets nearly blew a 3–1 series lead against the Atlanta Hawks but managed to hold off the Hawks in seven games. In the Eastern Conference finals, they trailed the San Antonio Spurs 3–1, but they mounted a comeback by winning two straight games to force a game seven at the Capital Centre. The Bullets rallied again, overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit to beat George Gervin and the Spurs 107–105 in one of the NBA's all-time greatest games and advance to the NBA Finals and a rematch with the Seattle SuperSonics. In game one of the finals, the Bullets defeated the SuperSonics, 99–97, on two game-winning free throws. They lost the next four games, and the series, to Seattle. The Bullets were the only team to play in the NBA Finals four times during the 1970s.
After retiring from the Chicago Bulls in early 1999, Michael Jordan became the Washington Wizards' president of basketball operations as well as a minority owner in January 2000. In September 2001, Jordan came out of retirement at age 38 to play for Washington. Jordan stated that he was returning "for the love of the game." Because of NBA rules, he had to divest himself of any ownership of the team. Before the All-Star break, Jordan was one of only two players to average more than 25 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds as he led the Wizards to a 26–21 record. After the All-Star break, Jordan's knee could not handle the workload of a full-season as he ended the season on the injured list, and the Wizards concluded the season with a 37–45 record. Jordan announced he would return for the 2002–03 season, and this time he was determined to be equipped with reinforcements, as he traded for All-Star Jerry Stackhouse and signed budding star Larry Hughes. Jordan even accepted a sixth-man role on the bench in order for his knee to survive the rigors of an 82-game season. A combination of numerous team injuries and uninspired play led to Jordan's return to the starting lineup, where he tried to rebound the franchise from its early-season struggles. By the end of the season, the Wizards finished with a 37–45 record once again. Jordan ended the season as the only Wizard to play in all 82 games, as he averaged 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 37.0 minutes per game. Jordan retired from playing for a third and final time after the season.
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