When it’s all said and done, the 2010s was one of the best 10-year stretches of basketball for the Washington Wizards franchise. This decade was the best in franchise history since the 1970’s when they won the NBA championship.
Let’s take a look at the most memorable and iconic moments of the decade.
The Wizards draft John Wall with the first overall pick - 2010
After a forgettable 2008-2009 season where the Wizards finished 19-63, Washington won the lottery and drafted John Wall with the number one pick that summer in 2010. Drafting the electrifying point guard who played just one season at Kentucky signified a new chapter in Washington.
Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison had already been dealt by the time Wall arrived and Gilbert Arenas would be traded to Orlando once it became clear that the Wall-Arenas backcourt was never going to work out.
In 2010, the Wizards officially became Wall’s team and he would be the clear centerpiece of the franchise to build around for the decade.
The Wizards draft Bradley Beal with the third overall pick - 2012
The Washington Wizards drafted Bradley Beal with the third overall pick in 2012. The sharpshooter out of the University of Florida, would be paired with the speedy John Wall as the Wizards would have their backcourt of the future intact for years to come.
When Beal came into the league, he was primarily just a catch-and-shoot player. But brick by brick, offseason by offseason, Beal added one thing here to his game and one thing there and has become a two-time All-Star and will inevitably make his third straight appearance this year.
The up and coming Wizards drop the Bulls, 102-93 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs - 2014
After a five-year hiatus, the Washington Wizards returned to the playoffs. Washington finished the 2013-2014 season with a 44-38 record and was thought to be nothing more of a feel good story entering the postseason. Washington’s first round matchup would be against the Chicago Bulls - a team that was unanimously picked to beat the Wizards by ESPN’s staff writers.
The Wizards had other plans. Washington was able to do just enough to hang around in Game 1 and midway through the fourth quarter, the Wizards’ veteran leadership took over. Nene led Washington with a team-high 24 points including some timely buckets down the stretch as the Wizards were able to pull away and win this one, 102-93.
Some thought the Wizards were a little ahead of schedule as Washington would go on to win the series 4-1 over Chicago in dominant fashion. But it was the Game 1 victory in Chicago that put the NBA on notice that something was brewing in D.C.
Washington signs Paul Piece in free agency - 2014
The Wizards have always had trouble in trying to lure big names to D.C. in free agency. However, Washington’s surprise playoff run caught the attention of one veteran who already had a ring to his name - Paul Pierce.
Pierce signed a two-year deal (2nd year a player option) in 2014 with the Wizards. Pierce saw the budding backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal and signed on to be the veteran leader for that team both on and off the court.
The offseason signing was big for a number of reasons. John Wall and Bradley Beal could now learn the ropes of the NBA from a proven champion. And secondly, it showed that Washington could lure free agency to D.C. not to mention the enormous amount of momentum at the team’s back.
Washington cruises past the Knicks on Christmas Day, 102-91 - 2014
Not only did Paul Pierce take note of what was going on in Washington, but so did the NBA as the Wizards would appear in their first Christmas Day game in 2014 - their first since moving to Washington in 1973.
John Wall was outstanding in his Christmas Day debut with 24 points and 11 assists as Washington cruised past the lowly Knicks, 102-91. The game wasn’t filled with holiday cheer though. Late in the game, Quincy Acy looked to stop Wall on a fast break and attempted to take a foul but he forearmed Wall in the head. Wall took exception and confronted Acy which led to a minor scuffle.
The Wizards would cruise to their first Christmas Day victory in ages and never really had to break a sweat.
Washington completes a four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs - 2015
After taking care of the Chicago Bulls as an underdog the year before and adding Paul Pierce to the mix, the Wizards were prepared once again to make a playoff run.
In what was a slog it out Game 1 to the series, the Wizards prevailed in overtime 93-86 behind some big time shots from Pierce. Washington was greedy, they wouldn’t be satisfied with just a split on the road and brought that same energy to Game 2 and took a commanding 2-0 lead heading back to Washington for two home games.
Washington, alongside a raucous crowd carried that momentum over to take take control of the series 3-0. With Toronto turning into the walking dead, Washington put this series to bed with a 125-94 Game 4 blowout victory completing the sweep.
John Wall breaks his wrist in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals - 2015
This might go down as the biggest “what if” of the decade.
In a Game 1 victory against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, John Wall flew down the court on a fast break only to land awkwardly on his wrist. Wall returned to the game and finished the night with 18 points and 13 assists but there was bad news looming. Later, we’d find out that Wall had five fractures in his hand forcing him to miss games 2, 3 and 4.
Atlanta would tie the series at two games a piece before Wall heroically decided to play the rest of the series with a huge brace around his wrist. The Wizards would lose Games 5 and 6 leaving fans to dream about what could have been if Wall didn’t miss those decisive three games.
To make matters worse, that Atlanta team got steamrolled by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Did you call bank? “I Called Game” - 2015
Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals came down to the wire. With the Wizards and Hawks tied at 101, coach Randy Wittman drew up a play to get Paul Pierce isolated at the top of the key. Pierce looked stuck in the mud and it was unclear if he would get the shot up in time.
Pierce went to his patented step-back shot and released the ball just prior to the buzzer to bank in the game winning shot.
An epic postgame interview would ensue.
The Wizards fall to to the Cavaliers 140-135 in an epic regular season showdown - 2017
Winners of seven straight games, the Washington Wizards entered their matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on a roll. Washington had taken care of some of the league’s not-so-great opponents on that seven game tear and this matchup against Cleveland would serve as a measuring stick for that Wizards team.
The lead would seesaw between the two teams the entire night and whenever the Wizards came up with a clutch basket, the Cavs would answer. Then it looked like the Cavs might pull away in the final minutes, but Otto Porter and Bradley Beal would answer with clutch three-pointers of their own.
With just over 15 seconds remaining and the Wizards trailing by one, John Wall drove to the hole and missed the bunny but Markieff Morris was there to clean up the missed shot and the putback to put the Wizards back up one with 12 seconds remaining. After a LeBron James missed layup, Cleveland fouled John Wall sending him to the line to attempt to ice the game. Wall hit both free throws to put the Wizards up 120-117 - then all hell broke loose.
Kevin Love took the inbounds pass and threw it three quarters court to James who hit a three-pointer falling out of bounds to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Washington would eventually fall 140-135 but this game was proof that the Wizards could hang with the NBA’s elite.
Washington tops NBA’s best Golden State Warriors with 112-108 victory - 2017
The Wizards next test against another one of the NBA’s elite team would come just three weeks later when the Wizards took on the Golden State Warriors at home.
After stiff-arming the Wizards that summer, this would be Kevin Durant’s first visit to D.C. as a member of the Golden State Warriors. However, Durant’s visit would be cut short as he got injured just two minutes into the game.
Washington threw the first punch in this one and led by as many as eight points in the third quarter. But as we knew, no lead was safe with that Warriors team. After an inevitable run by Golden State, the lead would swing back and forth between the two teams for the majority of the fourth quarter. But Washington was able to take advantage of the Warriors’ poor transition defense as they couldn’t keep up with Wall whenever pushed the ball - which he did as much as possible in the fourth quarter.
The Wizards executed their offense to perfection to close this game out with timely bucket after timely bucket. Markieff Morris would put the finishing touches on this one knocking down two free throws with 3.7 seconds remaining to give the Wizards a 112-108 win over the eventual NBA champions.
John Wall closes out the Hawks behind a playoff career-high 42 points - 2017
Prior to Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks, the home teams had held serve in all games to that point. That is, until Game 6 where John Wall decided he was going to take matters into his own hands. John Wall would score 42 points and dish out 8 assists in the process as the Wizards closed out the Hawks 115-99 in Atlanta.
Wall took over in the fourth quarter scoring 19 points in a variety of different ways to eliminate the Hawks as the Wizards would advance on to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
Wall drills a three-pointer to force a Game 7 against the Celtics - 2017
Like the series in the previous round, all home teams had held serve in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards. But the Wizards found themselves in a precarious position in Game 6 down 91-89 facing elimination with 7.7 seconds to go.
After struggling to get the ball in and nearly committing a five second violation, Otto Porter found John Wall. Rather than driving to the hole for two or hoping to get fouled, Wall pulled up for a three-pointer over the outstretched arms of Avery Bradley and drilled it giving the Wizards a 92-91 lead.
Washington would hold on for the victory tying the series at three games a piece and keeping their playoff run alive in what turned out to be the most iconic Wizards moment of the decade.
The Wizards trade Otto Porter to the Chicago Bulls - 2019
The Wizards formed their own iteration of a “Big Three” when they drafted and developed John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. Upper management had a plan to keep that core intact and to continue to tweak the parts around them in hopes of achieving their goals of winning 50 games and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
Many thought that the Wizards hung on to Otto Porter a little bit too long as he was the odd man out in this trio often criticized of not being aggressive enough and with Scott Brooks not utilizing him properly.
The 2018-2019 season had already gone off the rails but in February of 2019, John Wall tore his Achilles in what was the straw that broke the camel’s back as Porter would be traded to the Chicago Bulls in a cost-saving move.
The Wall-Beal-Porter era was full of plenty of excitement at it’s high but was also disappointing as they set lofty goals for themselves but always seemed to come up short.
Ted Leonsis hires Tommy Sheppard as the team’s General Manager - 2019
After a frustrating and disappointing 2018-2019 season where the Wizards went 30-52 and missed the playoffs, owner Ted Leonsis had finally seen enough and fired longtime general manager Ernie Grunfeld.
Tommy Sheppard had learned under Grunfeld’s tutelage but the move signified that Leonsis was fed up with the direction the franchise was moving in and had seen enough to hit the reset button in Washington - even if it was a year or two too late.