Why Wizards fans should be proud of last season

Players+warm+up+as+fans+settle+in+before+a+Wizards+vs.+Raptors+game+Jan.+13.+Even+though+the+Wizards+had+a+disappointing+season%2C+fans+should+still+be+proud+of+the+team.+Photo+by+Jesse+Rider.
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Why Wizards fans should be proud of last season

Players warm up as fans settle in before a Wizards vs. Raptors game Jan. 13. Even though the Wizards had a disappointing season, fans should still be proud of the team. Photo by Jesse Rider.

Players warm up as fans settle in before a Wizards vs. Raptors game Jan. 13. Even though the Wizards had a disappointing season, fans should still be proud of the team. Photo by Jesse Rider.

Players warm up as fans settle in before a Wizards vs. Raptors game Jan. 13. Even though the Wizards had a disappointing season, fans should still be proud of the team. Photo by Jesse Rider.

Players warm up as fans settle in before a Wizards vs. Raptors game Jan. 13. Even though the Wizards had a disappointing season, fans should still be proud of the team. Photo by Jesse Rider.

By Jesse Rider

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As Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal dashed across the court, I held my breath. The team was down by three points and there were only 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter of this high-stakes brawl. The Wizards were playing against the Toronto Raptors in Washington Jan. 13 and Beal was the team’s last hope.

From far beyond the arc of the three-point line, the 25-year-old catapulted the basketball into the air. At once, the 20,000 fans in the Capital One Arena froze, wrapped up in the drama of the moment.

The shot was a swish. I aimlessly jumped around with strangers, high-fiving people I’d never met. We roared, celebrated and clapped our hands as one. We thought it would take a miracle to force the game into overtime—and thanks to Beal’s shot, a miracle is what we got.

The following double overtime, though, was unfortunately less miraculous; the Wizards and Raptors exchanged jaw-dropping plays, but in the end, the Wizards lost 138–140. As the final buzzer sounded, Beal collapsed to the ground.

This game shouldn’t have meant much to the Wizards—their star point guard John Wall was out for the season with a chronic achilles tendon injury, they were far from having a winning record and they had no chance of making the playoffs.

But regardless of their narrow loss, Wizards fans and players walked out of the stadium enthusiastic. For a team and a fanbase so accustomed to disappointment, this game was a powerful moment.

During the season, everything that could have gone wrong for the Wizards did go wrong, from Wall’s injury to an absence of depth to undeveloped team chemistry. Many fans and analysts were confused as to why the Wizards didn’t completely tank—something impressive in its own right.

I have a simple answer: it’s because the Wizards played for the love of the game. Even when they lost their chance to make it to the playoffs, even when analysts recommended they lose on purpose just to get a good draft pick—maybe even a shot at the undisputed first overall pick, Zion Williamson—the Wizards kept giving their all on the court. To the Wizards, basketball isn’t always about being the best; it’s about playing their best.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thrilled with the Wizards’ losing season. As a die-hard fan, I hated watching my team lose repeatedly. But so many of the problems this season were out of the Wizards’ control—after all, how could they have stopped John Wall from injuring his achilles?

We expected our team to be a real contender in the Eastern Conference, but it finished as one of the worst teams in the NBA. Even though the end result is far from ideal fans should appreciate the Wizards’ accomplishments. The team showed incredible endurance, sportsmanship and effort throughout the season. And at the end of the day, that’s really all we can ask for.

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