After going to three basketball games in New York, I wanted to make sure I went to one while I was here in D.C. I chose a Wizards’ game because the Wizards were a team I had rarely seen play on TV and I knew they were beginning to be a powerhouse in the eastern conference. Little did I know the experience I was setting myself up for.
The game was one-sided through the first half with the Wizards up 50-38 over the Oklahoma City Thunder. I remember being glad they were in the lead, but I was hoping the game would tighten up in the quarters to come to make it more entertaining. After a Thunder scoring run in the third and a series of traded baskets late in the fourth, Paul Pierce came through with some late-game heroics to help the Wizards tie the game and send it to overtime. In overtime, after some more tight play, Russell Westbrook drove to the basket for the game-winning layup off of an out-of-bounds play in one of the most anti-climatic and disappointing finishes to a basketball game I have ever seen. After this 105-103 loss to the Thunder, the Wizards’ game became the sixth game I have seen in the last four months where the home team has lost.
The biggest difference between this game and the games in New York, however, was the environment. If anyone ever thought going to a Nets or Knicks game and going to a Wizards’ game would be the same, they would be sorely wrong.
When the Wizards’ owner bought the team about four years ago, he changed their jerseys from solid blue or solid white with gold trim to red, white and blue combinations that look simply fantastic and are reminiscent of the old Washington Bullets’ jerseys. The attractive merchandise coupled with the team talent and team basketball style of play becomes very enticing for a person like me who is interested in seeing what this team is all about. In addition, as the Wizards play through a game, it becomes clear they play full effort on every play and do not get discouraged when they fall behind. This makes it even more fun to cheer for them from the beginning to the end of the game.
One gets the sense from being in the Verizon Center during a game that the fans have jumped on the train taking the Wizards to wherever they end up going. The team even has a hashtag, #dcrising, to let fans and the rest of the basketball world know that the Wizards are going places.
All in all, when a team motivates me to stand up through the last two minutes of the game and for the five minutes of play in overtime, it says something about the personality of the fans and the character of the team. Other than with the Lakers, I have never felt so emotionally involved in the outcome of an NBA game. You don’t have fans cursing more than they are cheering and you don’t have players who seem to give up hope halfway through the third quarter. You just get plain old play-to-the-buzzer type basketball, and it’s something I think I can get behind.