Someone on Twitter started a “favorite four” thread by naming their four favorite players and nominating four others to pick their own. My four:
- Gilbert Arenas
- Magic Johnson
- Manu Ginobili
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
It got me thinking about my Favorite Four players in Wizards/Bullets history. So, for the fun of it, I decided to make the list.
First, some rules.
- I had to see them play. So, no Walt Bellamy, Jack Marin, Gus Johnson or Earl Monroe. They may have been great, but I never saw them play so they couldn’t be favorites.
- They had to play for the Wizards or Bullets.
- Quality of play doesn’t matter — the criteria here is strictly one of enjoyment. Did I like watching them play? Was I entertained?
My Favorite Four Wizards/Bullets
While the list overall is in no particular order, my favorite Washington player is pretty obvious since he’s the only one to make my All-Time Favorite Four.
- Gilbert Arenas — Arenas had seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm for basketball and the NBA. I got to know him a little when I was credentialed media and he was smart, funny and pretty insightful if I could keep him focused on basketball. On the court, he was one of NBA’s top offensive weapons — a precursor to James Harden and today’s NBA. The buzzer beaters, the swagger, the shot selection so gonzo that Kobe Bryant — KOBE! — criticized it, the nicknames (Agent Zero, Hibachi)...Gil was fun. His career was destroyed when Gerald Wallace fell into his knee, and then he imploded personally with Gun Gate and an array of inane and offensive public comments in retirement.
- Wes Unseld — Unseld was kinda the opposite of Arenas. Where Arenas was flash and dazzle, Unseld was grit and grind. Rebounding, defense, brutal screens, laser outlet passes. He was a Hall of Fame center at 6-7. Unseld and Wilt Chamberlain are the only NBA players to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season. Yes, Unseld and Wilt. I loved Unseld as a coach, at least for the first few seasons. His tenure as general manager was a disaster. But he was the team leader for its only championship, and he’s the most important player in franchise history.
- Jeff Malone — When old heads grumble about the lost art of the mid-range game, my mind usually goes straight to Malone. Selected ahead of Derek Harper and Clyde Drexler, Malone scored and...well...not a lot else. But he was fun to watch when he was going good, which was pretty often — he scored 20 points per game for his career in Washington. The heavy diet of pindowns they ran for him were the first basketball plays I could identify and draw up. What he did doesn’t hold up well to modern analytics, but I liked watching him play. The Bullets traded him to get Pervis Ellison, who was good for a season before his body crumbled to dust.
- Charles Jones — I know what you’re thinking. C.J.? Look, there’s no accounting for the affinities of a teenage basketball dork. I know he wasn’t much good. I knew it then. He was undersized, not very strong and lacked easily definable basketball skills. I mean, he didn’t even get to the NBA until he was 26 when he appeared in one game for three minutes. He even looked kinda old and worn out. The Bullets signed him for some reason and inexplicably made him their starter at center. As a mostly starter, he averaged 22.2 minutes, 3.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, AND THEY KEPT HIM FOR NINE YEARS. He’s 28th on the franchise’s all-time Win Shares. But I was entertained — probably as much by Mel Proctor calling him The Secret Weapon every time he scored.
- Elvin Hayes — The Big E helped Unseld bring a title to Washington.
- Bobby Dandridge — “Bobby D from the baseline...” Also on the 1978 championship team.
- Greg Ballard — One play — he grabbed a rebound and went the length of the court through multiple defenders to score — made a big impression on my nine-year old brain.
- Moses Malone — Just two seasons in Washington, but I loved watching an old, fat Malone get 20 and 10 every night.
- Caron Butler — Tuff Juice
- Chris Whitney — He always looked so little out there. I got to meet him when he was an assistant with the Wizards. He was my height — 6-2. I’m usually described as “tall.”
- Tom McMillen — Nowadays he’d be a stretch five, though I’m dubious he’d even be able to make the league at all. What entertained me? The mop of gray hair at 31 years old.
- Andre Miller — I know, he didn’t get to DC until very late in his career. I was entertained by his ability to get to the basket anytime he wanted despite moving at all times in slow motion.
- Muggsy Bogues — Just one season in Washington, but the novelty of seeing a 5-3 guy in the NBA never wore off.
That’s my list. Who’s your Favorite Four?