D.C. basketball lore is filled with tales of three dudes going to Wizards road games while dressed as actual wizards.
Well, there’s at least one such tale, anyhow. It’s the trip (to Detroit) that gave birth to the Wizznutzz, creators of the weirdest NBA content in this market, and the originators of the Agent Zero nickname.
So you can guess at my excitement late Wednesday night when Comcast SportsNet showed three fellers at the Wizards-Clippers game in Los Angeles, dressed in elaborate wizards costumes.
There was one problem, though. These wizards were supporting the Clippers.
“It’s a funny story how this all came to be,” e-mailed Baltimore native Nick Slatkin, one of the wizards in question.
Most stories worth telling are. Especially if they involve Wizards fans.
So it turns out that Slatkin is a filmmaker; he actually co-wrote “Unitas We Stand” — the Johnny Unitas film that will include cameos from Joe Flacco — with the Hall of Famer’s son, Joe Unitas. Slatkin’s birthday was this week, and his friend and producing partner, Andy Petersen, got Slatkin tickets to the Wizards-Clippers game.
Now, Slatkin has been a Clippers fan since the ’90s, which is weird, because he grew up in Baltimore as a Bullets follower, even attending games at Baltimore Arena and the Cap Centre. But the team’s move from Maryland to D.C., combined with Michael Jordan’s arrival, started weakening Slatkin’s loyalty, and he’s not super fond of the “Wizards” nickname, either.
“I’ve never been a fan of the name or logo,” he wrote. “The whole idea of a team name is to represent the city and its rich history. I have no idea what wizards or magic has to do with the District of Columbia. I understood the need to change a name with dangerous connotations, but I think they rushed the decision and name choice. It would have been better to keep the Bullets name and take the time to educate our youth and constituents about gun violence. …
“I think the Wizards logo is sloppy and very poorly done,” he went on. “If you’re going to have that as your team name and logo, there’s so much more you can do with it. Even though I’m a die-hard Orioles fan, and a staunch advocate against the Nationals, they were smart when they ripped off the Washington Senators logo. It’s classic and simple. And I see people all over the country wearing Nats hats. They aren’t even Nationals fans; they use the W to represent things other than Washington.”
Which is true. But pretty far afield from Wizards costumes. Sorry, Wizards costumes.
Anyhow, the third member of this trio was Rami Jrade, a Nuggets fan from Denver. So Petersen insisted that Jrade had to dress up like a wizard and heckle Nene, which seems reasonable enough. But somehow, this thought transformed into a grander plan, involving not one but three wizards, whose magic spell would apparently be “the ability to confuse people watching NBA games.”
They went to the Hollywood Toy and Costumes Shop on Hollywood Blvd. and spent $100 each on their costumes. They each put on a Clippers jersey: Jrade was in JJ Redick, Petersen in Chris Paul, and Slatkin in Pooh Richardson. Then they went outside.
“As soon as we stepped outside my house, the reaction from everyone was unbelievable,” Sltakin recalled. “We stopped traffic. People were taking pictures and asked us questions. We took the subway down and throughout the whole game we took pictures — probably around 100.”
Players, he reported, weren’t quite sure how to react, because here were wizard Clippers, or Clipper-Wizards, or whatever you’d like to call them. And they had a message, too.
“We told everyone, as actual wizards, we felt the Wizards franchise misrepresented us,” Slatkin wrote.
Now, Slatkin has never liked the sense that people go to NBA games in L.A. just to be seen and to draw attention to themselves, and he’s worried about looking like one of those people. This all started as just a private goof during a birthday celebration, but then they made the game broadcast, and were shown on the big screen, and now they have three wizards costumes and a dude from The Washington Post asking them questions. They have no plans to wear the costumes to another games, although they have discussed dressing like Mormons on a mission during a Jazz-Clippers game, and cheering for the home team.
In any case, Slatkin — who is also the vice president and co-founder of a Ravens fan group in L.A. — left the arena with a few words of wisdom, befitting his Wizardly attire.
“Not all wizards are Wizards fans,” he insisted. “Real wizards CAN be Clippers fans.”
(Assist to @recordsANDradio)