CHARLOTTE NC - JANUARY 08: Rashard Lewis #9 of the Washington Wizards looks to pass the ball around Kwame Brown #54 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 8 2011 in Charlotte North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
This week, all of SB Nation's NBA sites were challenged to identify the franchise's greatest disappointment. At first, I set my sights on Kwame Brown, whose resume speaks for itself. As part of the plan, I intended to talk to The Wizznutzz about what makes Kwame such a disappointing figure in Wizards history. But when I pitched the idea to them, they had an interesting response:
But really, how does a Wizards fan narrow it down to The Greatest Disappointment? It's a Mount Rushmore of Sadness. Kwame seems like the obvious choice, except when you consider he wasn't on anybody's radar as the top choice & Salieri used his ego, not stats & common sense, to make the pick. He's a disappointment because Salieri set him up to be one. But there's also a tremendous amount of disappointment about Gilbert, whose storyline is a Greek tragedy. Plus, he seems genuinely insane.
That response shaped the rest of our discussion, as well as our ultimate conclusion. We couldn't select anyone to be the team's most disappointing player, because everyone has been a disappointment in one way or another.
Bullets Forever: If you could build a Mount Rushmore of Wizards Sadness, who would go on it?
Arenas' all-out desire to avoid anxiety led to Shakespearean self-sabotage. His practical jokes were cloaks of armor, inexpertly trying to stave off the black dog of depression. Arenas was desperate to turn his frown upside down, to paint the darkness with light. But the japes soon became Greek tragedies, the smiles became frowns weighed down by the twin anchors of fear and avoidance. Arenas' unchecked Freudian impulses uprooted all his relationships, for that is all he knows: upheaval, unrest, undoing. Gilbert Arenas IS the Washington Wizards, in broken body, addled mind and tortured soul. He is We and We is He and forever all shall be.
Andray Blatche / Kevin Duckworth / John "Hot Plate" Williams / Ike Austin / Rod Strickland
The starting five for the Binge Eating Disorder All-Stars. Despite huge contracts, access to personal trainers and chefs, and playing a highly aerobic sport, these men compulsively ate, drank and puked themselves into being purged by the Wizards and, in many cases, the NBA. Even Jahidi White was disgusted by their diets.
Narcissism as human flesh. People often ask we, "What do you smoke?" Then they ask we, "Why do you call Michael Jordan by the name of Salieri?" Antonio Salieri was a great composer of opera, who works influenced composers in Austrria for nearly 20 years. But after his position with the Habsburg court ended, his influence began to fade with the public, even as he was respected as a teacher. But this did not sit well with the former superstar, and when a young pupil named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began to show more talent in powdered wig than Salieri had in all the whores of Austria, the elderly musician grew jealous of his student. Mozart wasn't without his faults -- he was a boor, with stone hands, no jumper and a questionable work ethic -- which enraged Salieri even more, for why should such genius be bestowed upon one who doesn't fully appreciate it, who calls salad "tree roots," who thinks calamari is fried shrimp, who wonders how a dry cleaner can make his soiled suits fresh again without the aid of soap and water? But rather than sublimate his ego and continue to help the uncouth Manchild, Salieri tried to belittle Mozart and undermine his every move. Salieri the musician is Salieri the failed GM is Salieri the sullied unretired basketball player is Salieri the universal symbol for invidious desire.
Our Lord and savior was cut down at 18 -- 15 years before Jesus -- by Judas reincarnate, Salieri Jordan. Sure, Salieri could have yelled, "Ecce Homo!" instead of "Flaming Fa**ot!" at the barely out of high school teen who didn't know the difference between French dressing and dressing like the French. But did Pontius Pilate have Jesus' best interests in mind? He didn't say, "Behold the Man!" out of admiration for Jesus; he was mocking God's son, who was beaten, bound and crowned by thorns. Salieri didn't say, "Behold the Man(child)"; he said, "Flaming Fa**ot" just as Pilate chanted, "Ecce Homo!" before overseeing Jesus' crucifixion. Has Salieri repented for his sins against the Manchild? No, never. Like Pontius Pilate, the vainglorious Salieri washed his hands of the execution -- despite finding him not guilty of committing any crime, not even a double dribble. The spinelessness of Pilate and Salieri are one and the same because though neither found their charges to be violating any law, they could not face their own weaknesses of character, their own flexible morality, their culpable crimes in berating a young man who wanted nothing but peace and a frozen TV dinner. Crowds of people yelled, "Crucify him!" at Jesus, just as fans want to hang Gentle Kwames from a cross. But when the time comes, will you be like Pilate and grant the mob's wishes despite no evidence, or will you stand with we on the Rock of Righteousness?
After he was cast aside for G-Man and G-Wiz, the Bullets' mascot, Hoops, started a lonely walk on the Appalachian Trail -- never to be heard from again. He is fandom personified, wandering in the wild, never to find enlightenment. Rumors have it that if you throw an acorn into the air in the mountains or Virginia, a tree will turn into a smiling basket, but you can still see the tears running down his net.
Bullets Forever: What is it that draws so many tragic figures to play for the Wizards. It seems like every other team features at least one or two players who had great careers and were able to leave gracefully. Why can't the Wizards do that?
Wizznutzz: The Wizards embody Emptiness, a borderline personality disorder that is at the heart of modern mania. Once a player drapes the Wizards' tanktop across his shoulders, God dies in a frenzy of violence, ritualistic self-medication and engorged blood sausages.
But this Emptiness is different from Nothingness, which is fertile, free. Emptiness is restless, passive, sleepy -- a step slow in the rhythm of life, a scout short of making the right call. The Wizards want something from Nothing, but they aren't willing to give into it. Instead, they dive headfirst into the vast chasm of primal chaos and instead achieve Emptiness. You can't have something without Nothing, but you can have nothing but Emptiness without Nothing. Void is form and form is void, but without void there is no form -- and therefore, Emptiness.
But the Wizards' dysthymia stretches back to a time before basketball, when a great ash covered the Earth and left people gasping for air, hungry for food, praying for light.
In 536 A.D. there was a mysterious dust cloud that shrouded the sun for the entire year across much of the planet. Its cause and effects are still a mystery, but some accounts say 80 to 90 percent of the populations in China and Scandinavia died because of famine, drought and disease. Dendrochronology tests on the rings of ancient trees help pinpoint the date of the mass-dust deaths, along with several written accounts, including this one from Italian praetorian beat reporter Cassiodorus: "We have had winter without storms, spring without mildness, summer without heat."
It other words, Emptiness.
Two years later, 1/3 of Europe's citizens died when Salieri drafted Smallpox with the No. 1 pick.
The rest is our tragic Wizards history.
This is plantar fasciitis gone wild.
This is Otis Thorpe for Chris Webber, Ike Austin for Ben Wallace.
This is Gilbert Arenas writing a Greek tragedy starring sharks and grottos and fingagunz and Agents of Zero, the special envoys of Emptiness. For the sum of Zero plus a negative number is NEGATIVE, of which we are POSITIVE. The sum of Zero is zero and the sum of zero is Zero and Zero divided by Zero is zero, which is an empty set -- THE FAVORITE PLAY OF EVERY WIZARD COACH SINCE THE TIME KEEPER IMMEMORIAL.
This Wizards are "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" on a basketball court -- an endless anguish, whose death rattle every fan knows the sound of the opening buzzer. "I know the voices dying with a dying fall" should be the first and last words out of Steve Buckhantz's mouth, but he's too smart and economical to waste his breath. "DAGGER!" will do, Babe, dagger will do.
Our Wizards are Sisyphus' stone, an absurdest act, our region's ecumenical existentialism. Embrace the endless Emptiness before the emptiness embraces you. Others have heard the mermaids singing, but not you. But fret not, no despair! Buy a foam finger and stare into the abyss! Be a patient etherized upon a table, a box seat, the nosebleeds! Let the season begin! WE DROWN!
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT SCREAMED MONTELL JORDAN TO AN UNCARING GOD SHAMMGOD! THIS IS HOW WE DO IT!
Bullets Forever: Where does Wes Unseld fit into all of this? He's one of only two players who have spent the entirety of their career with the Wizards and last more than five seasons with the team (the other being Andray Blatche). Yet, for as much as he did as a player, he hurt the franchise for years afterwards with his personnel decisions and his coaching moves. Does he still come out with his head above water, or is he sunk like everyone else?
Wizznutzz: Mr. Wes has gone from worshiped prophet to fallen angel, but all mankind exhibits this duality. We are all waiting to fall, which is inevitable, but rather than embrace the dive we continue reaching for the stars as the Earth closes in from below. "Maybe John Wall will ...." "Maybe Kwame Brown will ..." Maybe, maybe, may, be. We cling to the name Unseld because he once represented greatness, just as we cling to our childhood possessions because they once seemed important. But suffering comes from clinging to things, be it a toy, a championship, a No. 1 pick, or a pair of freshly soiled game-worns. Once you've donned that sweaty tanktop of life, bathed in the salty sweat from another man's shorts, pulled back your thong and exposed yourself in a crowded grocery store, you have to return the panties and garments to the Universe. Do not deny yourself pleasures -- the Unseld Years, the Arenas Years, the grocery-store exposure -- but do not chase them, either. Craving pleasure does not bring it. The twin ejaculations of suffering and pleasure are temporary; court neither and revel in both. In the side-streets around the Verizon Center, amid the half-smoke wrappers and discarded foam fingers, is a dirt path of enlightenment that will lead you back to you.
Bullets Forever: Over the last few years, Kwame has begun to reunite with people from his time with the Wizards. First, he reunited with Salieri Jordan in Charlotte. Now, he's in Philadelphia being coached by Doug Collins again. Following this pattern, a return to DC is inevitable. If he does indeed wind up playing his final days as a member of the Wizards, how should we treat him? Should fans welcome him with open arms like the father with his prodigal son, or just keep booing him like always?
Wizznutzz: It disturb we tha Kwames is returnin to the Left Hand Path, following the demons who abused he into confusion and darkness. But the Left Hand Path is a circle, a snake eating it's own tail, an Ouroboro of illusion. Once young Kwames is devoured yet again, he shall escape the cycle of debasement and return to we loving arms, where we shall reintigrate he into the High Church of Wiz. If grown men can have their foreskins restored by stretching they penis flesh, we too can stretch we metaphorical wangs to welcome Kwames back into the fleshy folds of D.C. If virginity cream can be used to tighten a vag, revirgination of our Kwames is no longer a dream but a moist plan of action. From the profane to the sacred, the eternal return, an Ouroboro of wound licking, the prodigal son's manchild parts restored like a dung beetle emerging from the feces of life.