Tim Legler and Fitting In

Editor's Note: Part IV of our Summer Project.  Previous profiles are of Robert Pack, Jim McIlvane and LeDell Eackles.

Today's profile goes back to that glorious 1995/96 team.  It's written by George Templeton. -PM 

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I was always a Bullets fan and a basketball nut, but I never had much to shout about when I was a kid.  By the time I became these things, the Bullets weren’t very good. That was true until the mid 90s when for a brief moment the Bullets had hope.  I could say that I was a Bullets fan with pride, instead of in the sheepish downcast fashion I always did, and it was Tim Legler who helped me get there and maybe win some acceptance amongst some of the people in my freshman dorm at VCU.

But before I get to that story, here is a brief recap of Tim Legler before joining our beloved Boulez .

  • High School: J.R. Tucker and St. Mary’s (Richmond, Va.)
  • College: La Salle University, where he scored 1,699 points in his career and was an Academic All-American.  He was a teammate of the famed L-Train (Lionel Simmons) and played for Speedy Morris.  In 1987, the Explorers lost to Southern Mississippi in the NIT final.  In 1988, the Explorers made the NCAA tournament but were dumped out by Lon Kruger’s Kansas State Wildcats.
  • NBA: Played for Phoenix, Dallas, Utah and Golden State in his first five years in the league.  Only played more than 33 games one time (79 in 1994). In 1994, Legler averaged 8.3 points per game and hit 37.4 percent from behind the arc. The next season in Golden State Legler played only 28 games but hit 26 of 50 (52 percent) from bonus land.

Of course you all remember the 1996 season. As the Bullets narrowly missed the playoffs, our man Legler went wild from behind the arc.  In 77 games Legler was 128 out of 245 from 3-point land (an eye-popping 52.2 percent, tops in the NBA).  His crowning achievement was winning the 3-point contest at all-star weekend with a total of 65 points out of a possible 90 (still a record by the way).  Many was the night I was cheering in my father’s basement waiting for another 3-bomb to swish the nets!

Next year as the Bullets made a memorable (at least for me) run to the playoffs, Legler played only 15 games and made only 27.6 percent (8 of 29) from 3.  But Legler did comeback to defend his title in the 3-point contest and that is where my story picks up.

All-star weekend was a lot of fun for me as a kid. I didn’t give a flying rats rear about the game (although it was always a good time), but I almost never missed the Slam Dunk and 3-point competitions; they were always entertaining.

So I’m pretty much the only white guy in the TV room at one of VCU’s freshman dorms, Rhodes Hall. The place is packed because the all-star festivities are on. So up steps Tim Legler in round one and I start clapping and cheeringly wildly for him. Legler has a good round and then TNT (I think they had it then) goes to commercial (I think). One of the guys in there who doesn’t know me (and I don’t know him) asks me if I am cheering for Tim Legler because he’s white.  Now I was indignant and a little bit teed off and I shot the guy a pretty nasty look and I simply said, "Look at his jersey." And after he looked, I then said "Damn right," sat down and got back to watching the event.  Everyone in the room looked at me like I had three heads.  I guess they never ran into someone who actually like the Bullets (particularly a white guy).

But I had a reason to puff my chest out a little bit.  That’s right, I am a Bullets fan and you know what, my team was no good, but I loved them just the same.  Even if those two (expletives deleted) from Michigan were on my team.  Even though the last time they had made the playoffs was 1988 (at the time).  Even though I wasn’t out of Kindergarten that last time they won a playoff series, or that I was eight days away from being born when they won their only NBA title.  I was a Bullets fan and I was proud of it.

And to apparently to everyone in that TV room that night, I was a real basketball fan and not some poseur. From then on, if a ball game (college or pro) was on and I was there, I had no shortage of people who liked talking about the game with me, and based on that, I made a connection with a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise made.

Tim Legler didn’t win that 3-point contest (Steve Kerr did) and his career never reached the heights it did in 1996.  And then old favorite Bernie Bickerstaff got hired (I was a big fan of his because of that great run he had with the Nuggets in the playoffs one year) and the Bullets finally made the playoffs.

Legler now is more famous as an ESPN basketball analyst and Simon Cowell impersonator (if I could only find that particular SportsCenter on you tube where they did an American Idol send up). And of course he’s married to this woman, so you know he’s done well. I am not sure what happened at the end of his time with the Bullets, but he’s never had a good word to say about them during his time at the Worldwide Leader (not even during that 2005 playoff run).

But that doesn’t matter. Tim Legler you gave me a reason to have pride in being a Bullets fan, and for that I thank you. Now if you could give the Bullets a little praise every once in awhile, I would appreciate it.

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