The Washington Wizards never played a single game on ESPN or TNT during the 2013-14 regular season. And until the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, things like this video below were probably about as much national exposure as they were ever going to get:
With then-starting center JaVale McGee now out of the picture, the Wizards were now no longer a regular feature on Shaqtin' a Fool. Thank god. But that also meant that the Wizards were very rarely going to be in the national picture period, until they improve on the court.
Re-live All-Star Glory!
Re-live All-Star Glory!
Heading into the All-Star Break, the Wizards had a 25-27 record. Sure, that record was mediocre, but still considerably better than the 15-37 mark they had after 52 games in the 2012-13 season.
John Wall was named as a reserve to the Eastern Conference's All-Star team, while Bradley Beal was named to the Rising Star Challenge. On top of that, both Wall and Beal were participants for the 2014 All-Star Saturday Night showcase, with Beal participating in the three point contest, and Wall participating in a new form of the dunk contest. And All-Star Weekend went almost as well as we would have hoped.
First, on Valentine's All-Star Friday, Beal scored 21 points in the Rising Stars Challenge helping his team, Team Hill beat Team Webber 142-136. Then on All-Star Saturday, though he didn't win the Three Point Contest, Beal still did this along the way:
and celebrated with his babysitter:
That alone made my day. But in the Slam Dunk contest, Wall made this huge slam dunk:
to win the contest for the Eastern Conference. It also won him the individual trophy, where he gave a mean mug:
New hardware for #SpriteSlam Champ @John_Wall pic.twitter.com/kpuuN6BnKO— NBA (@NBA) February 16, 2014
which all seemed to start because of this when I went through tweets:
Skylar Diggins mean mugs after hitting her half-court shot pic.twitter.com/Ka5Umb9kLH— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 16, 2014
(You're always welcome in D.C. Skylar Diggins! - She also has the same agent as ..... You Know Who.)
That Saturday was huge alright. But Wall was a #WallStar. He scored 12 points in the main event, and helped the East win 163-155.
John Wall reverse dunk #NBAAllStar https://t.co/YWVS2vZXMm— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 17, 2014
So why was this moment pivotal?
All-Star Weekend was a way to reintroduce the Washington Wizards, and their young backcourt to the world as a team on the rise. It's safe to say that Wall and Beal answered the bell both during the weekend, and even after, since the Wizards would win six of their first seven games after All-Star Weekend, and it helped the team get past .500 for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.
During that time, we saw this tweet:
I got bored and made this for @John_Wall and @RealDealBeal23. pic.twitter.com/but0aC6H6m— Joe Mande (@JoeMande) February 19, 2014
Before long, the term "House of Guards" spread, and we started seeing these T-Shirts being sold at the Verizon Center:
House of Guards t-shirts are in fact available at Verizon team store. They'll cost you a half a tank of gas ($35) pic.twitter.com/SCRHeiU6cU— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) March 16, 2014
And ESPN joined in on the fun once the Wizards went to the second round of the playoffs. If nothing else, that's when you know this nickname's stickin' for awhile:
The @WashWizards are heading to the second round. A new power is emerging in the nation's capital. #HouseOfGuards pic.twitter.com/2U3aE6h4gY— ESPN (@espn) April 30, 2014
So, now that I threw this out there, let's talk about a "what if" for February. If Wall and Beal did not have as strong of a performance during All-Star Weekend, how different would the buzz be around this team? There is a legitimate argument behind the assertion that the Wizards could have easily continued playing the way they did for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
But at the same time, I'm not so sure. I'm just glad that All-Star Weekend went as well as it did for the House of Guards, because it did a lot to accelerate the national, if not the global perception of the Wizards to this point.
To view more pivotal moments from earlier in the Wizards' 2013-14 season by month, click here for our StoryStream.