In June 1978, I was too young -- only five -- to remember (let alone appreciate) the Bullets winning the NBA title and the mania that swept my hometown: “Bullets Fever”... the “Fat Lady.”
My uncle, who lived down the street from me, was just about the same age that I am now -- and probably even more obsessed with the Bullets than I am now with the Wizards.
Over my childhood and teen years, I have vivid memories of him taking me to the Capital Centre for games, and there is no question that the foundation of (slash-blame-for) my die-hard Bullets/Wizards fandom includes his influence.
And so on Saturday night, he and I and my cousin will head over to Verizon Center for the first official celebration of that 1978 title team.
The other night, I was telling my 6-year-old son that I was going to the game to honor the Wizards team that won the NBA title.
Even at his age, he has seen enough bad Wizards performances -- and heard me openly gnash enough -- to be gobsmacked by the concept that the Wizards were once NBA champions.
Gabe likes the Wizards, but he is a Thunder fan -- Russell Westbrook is his favorite player -- largely because in this day and age it is almost as easy for him to follow OKC as DC.
Earlier this season, I took him to see the Wizards and Thunder, and we sat two rows off the court. He was as devastated about the Thunder losing as I was jubilant for the Wiz win.
But he has the NBA fandom bug, just like my uncle had the NBA fandom bug and helped make it a part of my life. There are few nights when the Wizards are playing that we don’t have them on the TV. The way things are going this season, it is a happier conversation with him.
The franchise hasn’t made it easy since the glory days of the late-1970s -- I would argue no NBA fan base has had a rougher run over the past 30 years than we Bullets/Wizards fans.
I cannot begin to recount all of the competitive absurdities, but I will dig deep into the catalog and remind you that in 1989, in the 2nd round of the draft, we took a 6’11 center named Doug Roth who was blind in one eye, and it was unclear the team knew that beforehand.
My uncle was actually the one who told me that, as we sat at a game during that season, and it has stuck with me as a quintessential example of the Bullets’ draft follies of the late 1980s.
And yet: The day we traded for Webber. The day we traded away the knuckleheads. The Bulls playoff series in ‘97. The peak of Agent Zero. The revival of Bernard King. The night we won the Wall Lottery. The moment we drafted Beal. Beating the Thunder at home in both 2012 and 2013.
The honest-to-god, feel-them-in-your-gut highlights are agonizingly few and far between, but I feel more optimistic about the future of the franchise today than I have in the 30+ years I can remember caring.
Saturday night, for just a few hours, we can remember that our franchise was once an NBA “world champion,” a title that no volume of hapless years since can ever be taken away from us. I am going to collect my replica championship ring at the arena entrance and cherish it.
My uncle’s eyes will be on the floor watching his heroes. My eyes will be on my uncle, watching the closest thing I can get -- for now -- to being a Wizards fan celebrating an NBA championship.