New team names can be hard for longtime fans to get used to, as basketball enthusiasts in our nation’s capital well know. The Washington Wizards have undergone the most name changes of any franchise in the NBA. The club originated as the Chicago Packers in 1961 when it was added as the NBA’s first modern expansion team following the consolidation of the league from seventeen franchises to eight during the early 1950’s.
After a one-season stint as the Zephyrs (a play on Chicago’s nickname “The Windy City”), owner Dave Tragere moved the franchise to Baltimore, Maryland in 1963 and renamed it the Baltimore Bullets. In 1964 Abe and Irene Pollin (along with former NBA referee Arnold Heft) purchased the Bullets for $1.1 million. When the Pollins became the sole owners in 1968 they moved the team to Washington D.C. And upon completion of the new Capital Centre arena in 1973 the team was called the Capital Bullets.
But in 1974 Abe Pollin changed names once again to the Washington Bullets. This name stuck for over two decades until Pollin made a controversial decision to amend the team’s name for the sixth and final time due to the violent/negative connotation associated with the word “bullet.” A contest was held to choose a new name, and “Wizards” wound up winning the telephone poll that allowed callers to vote for their favorite of five finalists: Wizards, Sea Dogs, Dragons, Express and Stallions. The Bullets officially became the Washington Wizards when they moved into the new MCI Center for the 1997-98 season.
On May 10, 2011 the Wizards unveiled their new color scheme, uniforms and logo, reverting to the traditional red, white and blue colors that harken back to the team’s glory days of the late seventies and early eighties. Some diehard fans remain hopeful that a former name may someday be resurrected too.