If you've followed Wizards action at all on Twitter, you're probably familiar with the #SoWizards hashtag, that pops up anytime something happens to the Wizards that falls in line with previous Wizard disappointments. Kevin Seraphin listed as day to day for two weeks? #SoWizards. The 2011 Draft? #SoWizards. Getting beat by the Sixers in your home opener by the Sixers? #SoWizards.
While the hashtag is devoted to the disappointments that come with Wizards fanhood, there are also the fun things: The annual win at home against a team you didn't expect the Wizards to beat, the quirky things Dan Steinberg brings to light about the roster on D.C. Sports Bog, and of course, the random journeymen who always get off to a really great start before trailing off into obscurity again (crossing fingers that Drew Gooden is the exception).
Like fine art, we understand when something is very Wizards-like when we see it, even if we can't put it into words. This holds true with players as well. For reasons we can't quite articulate, Juwan Howard embodies the Wizard spirit more than Chris Webber. To people who aren't Wizard fans, this probably makes no sense, but if you've ever spent a lonely night hoping the Wizards would mount a comeback against the Spurs, even though you know they'll still lose by 20, you understand what I'm talking about.
To better recognize the players that fit this billing the best, we set up a March Madness-style bracket to determine the most Wizards player of all-time. We split our Wizards up into four regions to better organize everyone:
- The Homegrown Regional: For players the team groomed to reach their max Wizard-ness in Washington.
- The FA/Trade Regional: For players who may not have started in Washington, but left indelible impressions on Wizard fans while they were in D.C.
- The Arenas Regional: It wouldn't be very Wizard-like for someone to come in and dominate, so by definition, Gilbert Arenas can't be the most Wizard player of all-time. Still, the atmosphere he created brought players to light who otherwise would have been shrouded in darkness.
- The Local Heroes Regional: The bracket for players who either had pre-existing ties to the DMV area, or developed a cult following during their time as Wizards.
(Note: For the sake of this tournament, we only included players from the Wizards era and their contributions in that time. So apologies to Ledell Eackles for being left off the bracket. He's arguably one of the truest Wizards this franchise has ever seen, but almost all of his finest work came as a Bullet. This holds true for Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol as well. Sorry guys.)
Below, we take a look at what made each player in this tournament such a Wizards player, and determine a champion.
- 8. Peter John Ramos - Anytime you have a guy that's commonly referred to as "Party John" they're probably a Wizard.
Jarvis Hayes - The Wizards targeted the 2003 Draft as the draft where they'd use their lottery pick to acquire a shooter. What they got was someone who nearly the same career field goal percentage as Kirk Hinrich, but without the intangibles.
- 6. Jared Jeffries - The year before the Wizards took Hayes, they used another lottery pick on Jared Jeffries, He looked, sounded and played exactly like the what would happen if you took the guy from MyPlayer on 2K and changed nothing about him before you entered him into the draft. The only thing keeping his all-encompassing averageness from ranking higher in this region is the 5 year, $30 million contract Isiah Thomas gave him. Typically Wizards get the big money before they get to D.C.
- 5. Cartier Martin - I know what you're thinking, and yes, Cartier Martin wasn't drafted by the Wizards, but playing for the 2008-09 Charlotte Bobcats doesn't exactly constitute previous NBA experience. As a Wizard, he provided a few bizarre moments, leading the Wizards in scoring in John Wall's first game and forcing OT in another game that season with this incredible shot. While he was rarely in the spotlight, he managed to turn a cup of coffee at the end of the Titanic 2009-10 season into a three year stint in D.C.
- 4. Kevin Seraphin - In the course of NBA history, there may be only one player who loses his pet snake. And if that's the case, the only player would be a Wizard, which makes complete sense.
- 3. Brendan Haywood - Would you fall out of your chair if I told you Brendan Haywood played in the 6th most games in franchise history, trailing only Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Greg Ballard, Charles Jones and Kevin Loughery? Well, he did. He also used to do color commentary for Washington Mystics games, which seems like a very Wizards thing to do.
- 2. Jan Vesely - Like every Wizard, Jan had big dreams, hoping he'd be the European Blake Griffin. In the end, he was able to dress up like a Wizard for the cover of a Czech magazine, which is still pretty good.
- 1. Juwan Howard - Lots of the angst you see toward current Wizard players and players of the recent past stems back to issues the fanbase had with Juwan Howard. Did you have a problem with how much money Rashard Lewis got paid? You were angry about Juwan first. Were you ever upset about Andray Blatche's lack of motivation? You were probably upset about Juwan's originally. Were you upset every time you saw former Wizards Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace celebrating championships they won after they left D.C.? Well, Juwan didn't blaze a trail in that regard, but it was still weird seeing him win a title with LeBron.
- 8. Mike Bibby - You can't talk about what it means to be a Wizard without talking about the guy that was willing to give up a year of salary to not be a Wizard, but only if he got the chance to essentially audition for the Heat before agreeing to the buyout.
- 7. Mitch Richmond - How bad was Webber-Richmond trade? People cited as reason not to trade Andray Blatche, lest we end up with another underperforming veteran on the back end of his career like Mitch Richmond.
- 6. Jannero Pargo - Jannero Pargo only played seven games as a Wizard, but left a lasting impression as he tried to aid the Wizards in the absence of John Wall. And by aid, we mean he attempted 20 three pointers in 102 minutes of action, making three.
- 5. Popeye Jones - The Wizards needed a goofy player with a goofy name during the Michael Jordan era to remind everyone that Wizards basketball should not ever be taken 100 percent seriously. Popeye Jones served that role and served it well.
- 4. Drew Gooden - If this post had been written last month, Gooden and Bibby would have shared the eight seed. But now, thanks to a bizarre, unexpected series of events, Drew Gooden is suddenly the Wizards best player coming off the bench. This will probably end with a 1-11 shooting performance in a Game 6 performance against the Raptors, but right now, this just feels right.
- 3. Darius Songaila - Some people hated how he stole minutes from young players, other people called him White Knight. Oddly, he'll probably mostly be remembered for that time he kinda punched LeBron.
- 2. Chris Whitney - Chris Whitney played seven years in Washington and was only a regular starter for one year. Typically, you don't see someone hold down a backup point guard position so tightly for so long, especially considering how many different players started in front of him. But the man just kept grinding along as the model employee, and as a reward, he gets to tell his kids he played with Michael Jordan.
- 1. Michael Ruffin - Ruffin played in 185 games as a Wizard. We can guarantee you only remember one play from his career, and a million writers on a million typewriters couldn't have scripted a more Wizards play if they had a million years to write it.
- 8. Earl Boykins - The Wizards have always been the team where basketball's greatest outliers can come and be at home, so we all knew that all 5'5 of Earl Boykins would have play in Washington in order for his career to be complete.
- 7. Mike James - The Mike James story is one of perseverance, making his way to the NBA out of Duquense and making a name for himself. It's also a story about a guy who took it upon himself to take a lot of shots while Gilbert Arenas was injured.
- 6. Larry Hughes - Larry Hughes penchant for being an inefficient jump shooter made him an easy target for jokes in his time in Philly, Golden State, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Charlotte and Orlando. Yet, for some reason, in Washington, he was able to put together a marvelous season that nearly netted him an All-Star appearance. Playing like a Wizard everywhere except Washington D.C. is a very Wizard thing to do in our books.
- 5. Oleksiy Pecherov - The man had one mission in life: To get buckets, son.
- 4. DeShawn Stevenson - In the course of NBA history, there may be only one player who loses tattoos Abraham Lincoln on his neck. And if that's the case, the only player would be a Wizard, which makes complete sense.
- 3. JaVale McGee - Only on the Wizards could this not be the most Wizards play in team history.
- 2. Andray Blatche - Blatche is the Wizards version of the Prodigal Son, but instead of returning home at the end of the story, he goes to Brooklyn and the father still has to pay out $20 million while he thrives elsewhere.
- 1. Nick Young - Nick Young is a truer Wizard than most people realize, and his post-Wizard career proves. Despite a disturbing lack of maturation during his time in D.C., he still managed to accomplish his lifelong goal of playing on the Lakers with Kobe Bryant, except that Kobe was injured almost the entire season, the Lakers are on pace to have one of their worst seasons in franchise history and most people will only remember the death stare he got from his hero.
Local Heroes Regional
- 8. Tyronn Lue - Outside of Wizard circles, Lue is best remembered for being stepped over by Allen Iverson, but after his time in L.A. he was a serviceable point guard in D.C. during the Jordan era. He also looked great in a Bullets jersey.
- 7. Calvin Booth - By far the best-looking Wizard in team history.
- 6. Othyus Jeffers - Jeffers was called up from the D-League late in the 2010-11 season. He only played 16 games, but injected so much enthusiasm into those games that someone made a nearly four minute highlight reel out of it.
- 5. James Singleton - Like Jeffers, Singleton was brought in as an extra body late in a dreadful Wizards campaign, except he pulled it off twice. He spurred the Wizards on after the core of the team was gutted in 2010, and then he came back in 2012 and actually performed quite well.
- 4. Antonio Daniels - The weird thing about Antonio Daniels was how fans adored him, even though he was essentially brought in to do everything opposite of how Gilbert Arenas did it.
- 3. Laron Profit - No played embodied Wes Unseld's draft strategy of "Take the guy they talked the most about in the Washington Post last year" better than Laron Profit. *looks down* Wait, scratch that.
- 2. Juan Dixon - No played embodied Wes Unseld's draft strategy of "Take the guy they talked the most about in the Washington Post last year" better than Juan Dixon.
- 1. Roger Mason Jr. - Mason grew up in Washington D.C., so fans took pride in him as a true hometown hero when he arrived in Washington D.C. In his first season as a Wizard, he didn't do much to impress, but turned into a lethal shooter in his second season, playing a big role off the bench for the Wizards during their last playoff campaign. After that magical year, he continued to do the DMV proud in San Antonio, New York, New Orleans and Miami. Plus, he returned to Washington for a year in 2011-12, which was cool, except for the time Flip Saunders forgot to include him on the active roster.
There was no way we could have someone that played with LeBron James wind up as the most Wizards player ever. So we bid adieu to Juwan Howard and Roger Mason Jr. in the semifinals, leaving us with Michael Ruffin and Nick Young.
When it came down to the final decision, there was really only one choice. While Nick Young had the perfect mental makeup for a Wizard, he was simply too gifted to be most Wizard player in franchise history. Nick Young has the perfect physique for a shooting guard, and that just isn't Wizard enough. What truly makes the Wizards endearing to their fans is the collection of misfits that have passed through over the years, and at the end of the day, no one was a bigger misfit than Michael Ruffin.
In his NBA career he had more turnovers than field goals. He's the only player to play in 400 games and score less than 800 points. He wasn't just offensively challenged, he made a career of being offensively challenged. Perhaps if he had come along a little bit later, we could have appreciated his defensive contributions a little more, but since we couldn't, all we could do was be a witness to the basketball anomaly playing in front of us.
It was clear to anyone that watched that Michael Ruffin was not going to be a great player, but he fought on, proved doubters wrong and managed to do some pretty unintentionally hilarious things trying to hide his lack of basketball skills from the world. If that isn't what being a true Wizard is all about, I don't know what is.