Lucky charms securely in his pocket, Zach Leonsis was still feeling some nerves as he got set to represent the Wizards at the NBA draft lottery. The Wizards have had to depend on the fortunes of some ping-pong ball bounces in each of the past four years and come away with the No. 1 pick once, in 2010 – when the late Abe Pollin’s widow, Irene, showed up in her yellow suit and with a 1978 championship ring to yield John Wall.
His father, Ted, brought up the possibility of him sitting on the stage as kind of a joke and Zach replied, “Yeah, right.” But Ted Leonsis was able to able to convince him over a few emails and conversations.
“My dad was thinking we’d sent team personnel a couple of times and we hadn’t come back with the No. 1 pick. We sent Mrs. Pollin and it worked,” Zach Leonsis said. “They said they wanted to do it. And I couldn’t let them down.”
Family has worked out the past two seasons, with Cleveland Cavaliers claiming the No. 1 overall pick after owner Dan Gilbert sent his son, Nick, to the stage. “I know, the pressure is on,” Leonsis said. “I don’t really feel that I’m competing against him or anything like that. My job is to sit behind the desk and hope I get lucky. It’s as simple as that.”
Zach Leonsis reached in his pocket to reveal his good luck charms – the wedding bands of his late grandfathers and a Greek cross that his father once received from his grandmother. “My sister and I were really close to my both grandparents,” he explained. “Both of my grandfathers have since passed away, but my dad allowed me to have both of my grandfathers’ wedding rings and also, he gave me this little Greek trinket, cross, which his grandmother gave to him. So it’s a little bit of relief, knowing that I have my grandparents with me. I hope it can bring me some luck.”
The 23-year-old Leonsis graduated from Penn last year and is currently the manager of business development for Monumental Sports and Entertainment. “My whole life, I’ve really grown up around the teams. It’s always been a dream of mine to work for the teams one day,” he said.
He also believes that the Wizards are moving in the right direction. “I actually think we’re in really good shape. Having gone through the rebuild with the Caps, you go through some lean times and then you see the glimpses of really big potential and I think you’re starting to see that with this team,” he said. “The team was really, obviously, young, long and athletic and we’re going to add a really big piece to the puzzle, no matter what the pick. One through five. it’s a really deep draft. It’s going to really help accelerate our rebuild.
So, yes. With so much at stake, Zach Leonsis would have some nerves. “I don’t have any control, so I shouldn’t have any concerns. Of course, I’ve got a few,” he said, about an hour before the Wizards decide if they will have the chance to draft Kentucky’s Anthony Davis with the No. 1 overall pick. “Earlier today, I was less nervous than I thought I’d be. It’s starting to build a little bit. And once I get on stage, I’m sure I’ll be nervous. But I feel good. What’s going to happen is going to happen.”