The Baltimore/Washington pro basketball franchise technically started in Chicago.
[1978 Washington Bullets Championship Trophy - Verizon Center, Washington D.C.]
In 1961-62 they were known as the NBA’s Chicago Packers, and when they struggled with attendance in that inaugural season, the name changed to the Chicago Zephyrs. The franchise still lost money—and winning percentages of .225 and .313 over those two seasons didn’t help.
In stepped Arnold Heft, Earl Foreman and Abe Pollin. The trio purchased the team for a record $1.1 million1, moved it to Baltimore, and renamed them the Bullets. They didn’t even have approval from the NBA Board of Governors to make the move, and were initially fined for not living up to a three-year agreement to stay in Chicago. Eventually, the fine was reduced from $25,000 to $5,0002 and everyone moved on with their business.
So, technically, the franchise’s 50th year of existence came in the 2010-11, another disastrous 23-win effort on the heels of the Gilbert Arenas (and Javaris Crittenton) “Gun-gate” season prior. At the time, a member of the Wizards Media & PR staff told me that they were not counting the first two seasons in Chicago, and that the clock on 50 years started in 1963-64 when the team arrived in Baltimore.
Thus, according to those specifications, this season is the franchise’s 50th in existence. There are only eight teams in the NBA older than the Baltimore/Washington franchise—the Celtics, Warriors, Knicks, Pistons, Lakers, Kings, Hawks, and 76ers. The Miami Heat franchise turned 25 years old this season and is celebrating it with much fanfare.
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