Welcome to the refreshed Bullets Forever! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Tony East: Believe it or not, my favorite player growing up was Antawn Jamison. When he came to the Wizards in 2004, I decided to watch the team. It was the first time I watched an NBA game all the way through. I fell in love with the team - Arenas was amazing and smooth, Haywood was a strong monster inside, Larry Hughes could shoot (by the standard at the time) and, of course, Jamison could score. I fell in love with the team and have followed them ever since.
Nick Bilka: I’ve always been a basketball fan, but coming from an area (Central Pennsylvania) without a natural team to root for, I always gravitated more towards the college game. Even my first few years in DC, I never really caught on to the Michael Jordan comeback hype that took over for those two seasons in the 2000’s.
My perspective changed when I worked at an office where I could occasionally get free tickets to go to Wizards games. This was the beginning of the Gilbert Arenas/Larry Hughes/Antawn Jamison big three, and though I initially went to see the opposing teams stars (DC traditions), I soon gravitated towards the charismatic and spectacular point guard of the Wizards and started to occasionally go to games on my own dime. I moved from the area for graduate school, but still followed the team through the ups, downs and false starts of the hobbled Arenas era. When I came back to the area post-gun gate, and the Wizards had the chance to draft potentially one of the most exciting players in franchise history in John Wall, I bit the bullet, bought season tickets, and have obsessively followed the team and occasionally written about them ever since.
Marcus Atkinson, Sr.: As a native of this region, basketball was always a big part of my family. Many of the members of my family played basketball at some level so it was only natural that I grew up a Bullets/Wizards fan. The Bullets games were often on in my household for most games. I remember watching this team in the early 90’s on Home Team Sports, with players like Michael Adams, Don McLean, and Pervis Ellison just to name a few.
Yes, those were terrible times, but the fortunes of the franchise started to change and when they started getting the core of Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, I became even more invested. By this point I was in elementary school and I participated in Juwan Howard’s reading program just to get free tickets for me and my family to attend games. My trips to the Capital Centre, or US Airways Arena as it was called at that time, were some of my fondest memories growing up.
My fandom, like many of you has suffered a number of ups and downs, especially when Chris Webber, one of my favorite players of all-time, was traded away to the Sacramento Kings. Since that point my interest has gotten stronger and stronger especially as I became more knowledgeable of the game and I have seen this team have some notable talent such as Gilbert Arenas and John Wall, just to name a few.
Michael D. Sykes, II: I’m not sure when my fandom became an actual thing. It all happened so naturally. But I think things clicked for me when Jordan decided to step down from the front office and join the team. I had always been an NBA fan and paid attention to the Bullets when Rod Strickland and Chris Webber were on the team. But I was the biggest Allen Iverson fan in the world at the time and was obsessed with his Reeboks. The night Jordan scored 51 points against the Hornets was the night that changed me, but it wasn’t the greatest night of fandom for me.
Things got real when Gilbert Arenas came to town. You want to talk about a savage? Gil dropped 60 on Kobe in the Staples Center on a Sunday night in LA. Then he baked Steve Nash in Phoenix with 54 that Friday. Do you know how much trash I talked that week? All of it. Not only was Arenas my favorite player, but he was my Myspace background and my favorite blogger. I could relate to Gil. He could write and so could I. He gave me a team to root for. That’s why I’m here.
Matt Silich: This is probably going to be the most unorthodox story here. Growing up, I was not a huge NBA or basketball fan. I’m from the Chicago area, and the early-mid 2000’s Bulls were nothing to write home about. Eddy Curry was arguably my favorite player during this stretch. I suppose I’ve always been drawn to mediocrity.
A few years later, I started to watch the NBA Playoffs a bit more often. I liked the storylines of the Eastern Conference, between LeBron/Dwight Howard/the Big Three in Boston. I also decided Ben Gordon (of the Bulls at the time) was my favorite player, and my Bulls fandom grew a bit. It continued to grow with the Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose teams, but for some reason I never felt a really firm connection to the team.
I believe the first NBA 2K game I played for an extended period of time was NBA 2K12. My friend and I quickly became addicted to the dynasty modes and decided to start from the bottom, just as we had in NCAA Football games the past couple years (Go Tops!).
Two of the worst teams in the league were the Charlotte Bobcats (his choice) and the Washington Wizards (my choice). I unofficially decided the Wiz would be my 2K team from then on. I built John Wall into Magic Johnson with quicker feet, molded Andray Blatche into Tyson Chandler with love handles, and traded Nick Young for a pick immediately.
After a couple years of playing as the virtual team, I started to watch their real games on League Pass. Since about 2013, I’ve been what I’d consider a “legitimate” fan. That belief was even further cemented in the 2014 playoffs, when I found myself unable to quell my desire for the Wizards to beat my hometown team (I laughed as Nene burned down the United Center).
Now, I watch far too many regular season Wizards games and spend most of my summers lamenting Ernie Grunfeld just like the rest of you. I know that was long-winded, but I couldn’t help myself.
Quinten Rosborough: I became a Wizards fan on accident, sometime around 2001 or so. I was an NBA fanatic as a kid, and in order to watch my favorite players (Kobe, Iverson, and Vince Carter, in that order), the best way to do so was to wait for them to play the Wizards on Comcast SportsNet. Through something akin to Stockholm Syndrome, I quickly found myself falling in love with players like Courtney Alexander and Jahidi White. I still remember how angry I was when I found out that Michael Jordan had traded Rip Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse; I guess it was all downhill from there.
Matthew Gilpin: While growing up, no one in my family was a basketball fan, therefore the game just wasn’t on my radar. That all changed one night in 2005 when I randomly stumbled upon a game on Comcast SportsNet. I couldn’t tell you who the Wizards were playing, what the score was, or even anything that happened in the game itself but what I remember is Steve Buckhantz, Phil Chenier, and Gilbert Arenas. Those three people made me fall in love with the game. Later that year, Arenas hit the buzzer beater against the Bulls in Game 5 and I was officially hooked.
A few years later, I convinced my middle school principal to file the paperwork to participate in a drawing for the ‘Gilbert Scores For Schools’ program and a few weeks later we got picked to go the drawing. While at the drawing I got my first ever Gilbert Arenas jersey, got to see Phil Chenier and Gilbert Arenas in person, and even got my picture taken with G-Wiz. My school did not get picked but we did get a consolation prize of $1000. I still don’t know what my school did with the money but whatever they bought, it should have a plaque on it with my name.
Fun fact: Similar to Michael D. Sykes, II, Arenas was also my MySpace background.
Alan Jenkins: Even though I grew up in Maryland and went to a handful of games during the Chris Webber area, I was never really a fan. On top of that, when Michael Jordan did his farewell tour I still wasn’t really enamored with the team; probably because I was more of a college basketball fan at the time.
But then Gilbert Arenas came to town and that all changed. He had spunk, was flamboyant, and was really likable to the average fan at the time and, the Wizards started winning for the first time in forever. Tuning in every night not knowing whether Gilbert would score 40 or hit the game winner had me glued to the TV and really drew me into the team and franchise as a whole.
Then I went to college in the fall of 2005 and was forced to stick up for my team as there were no other Wizards fans around. Freshman year, I would get into screaming matches arguing that Gilbert was an MVP-caliber player but would never get the same recognition as Kobe Bryant as he was in his prime and LeBron James had just entered the league.
It was at that point when I became a diehard fan and there was no turning back.
Jake Whitacre: Believe it or not, I’ve already written about this. TL;DR blame it on Jared Jeffries. Also, Mike told his story a few years back as well.
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