Discuss the life and legacy of Wizards owner Abe Pollin

Abe Pollin embraces Wes Unseld after the Bullets beat the Sonics to win the NBA championship in 1978.
Abe Pollin embraces Wes Unseld after the Bullets beat the Sonics to win the NBA championship in 1978. (By Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post)
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George Solomon
Former Washington Post Sports Editor
Tuesday, November 24, 2009; 4:45 PM

Abe Pollin brought NBA basketball to Washington and helped revitalize the city by building the Verizon Center. Longtime Post sports editor George Solomon discussed the life and legacy of Pollin, who died today at 85.


Washington, D.C.: I know fans complained about the personnel moves, amount of money spent on the teams, etc. But I'll remember him for building two arenas with his own money, including Verizon Center when the city was broke and no one thought building something downtown was a good idea.

George Solomon: More than anything, Mr. Pollin brought two professional teams-The Bullets/Wizards to town-built those two arenas and with the Verizon Center revitalized the downtown area. More importantly, was his total involvement in area civic causes.


Washington, D.C.: Mr. Solomon,

You wrote in your column that Abe Pollin had something called corticobasal degeneration. What is that? What were his final months like with this disease?

washingtonpost.com: Even With Health Failing, Pollin the Owner Is Still Pollin the Fan

George Solomon: He was very frustrated with that disease, spoke out in hopes of helping to find a cure, but was not able to move around very much these past two years. Still, he went to most Wizards games -- and some Caps games -- until he could not.


Washington, DC: First off, I've been to Fun Street in old Chinatown and that arena, private funded by Mr. Pollin, is a god-send to the community. It's what the D.C. government hopes to have in SE D.C., but Abe Pollin paid for the arena himself. He'll be remembered fondly.

It seems like a macabre question, but I'm sure it's on everyone's mind. What happens to the Wizards now? Does Ted Leonsis buy the team?

George Solomon: Not the best time to answer such a question, but The Post has reported that Ted Leonsis and his Lincoln Holdings Company has the first option to buy the Wizards and arena, of which Lincoln Holdings owns a minority interest.


Fairfax, VA: Abe did great things for the city of Washington D.C. and the Washington Wizards' franchise. His passion for the team and all of the employees of the Washington Wizards could really be seen by all. He will be truly missed.

George Solomon: I agree with your assessment completely.


Clinton, Md.: I think Mr. Pollin was quite a civic leader, however did you believe he stuck to his guns a little too long with the Wizards franchise? Should he have passed the reigns to Mr. Leonsis or some other younger ownership group a little sooner

George Solomon: Mr. Pollin always said he was not about to sell the team until he won another championship. That's what he said. And he stuck to his gun to the end.


Arlington, Va.: Say what you want about the teams he put together, but Abe is responsible for revitalizing Chinatown.

The city owes him a debt of gratitude.

He was also EXTREMELY loyal to his employees. I still see some of the "old timers" that worked at the Cap Center now work at the Phone Booth.

George Solomon: Abe loved the Wizards. And he loved the arena. And he truly loved Washington, D.C.


Virginia: Thoughts and prayers to the Pollin family. What do you think will be his lasting legacy? Chinatown revitalization? Verizon center? On a related note...given the angst with how the Redskins ownership turned out post-JKC, what do you think will happen with the Wizards and Verizon Center?

George Solomon: Not the right time to talk about the future of the Wizards and arena.....but his legacy is marked by Washington's arena, its downtown development and the fact he brought three professional teams to our city: The Bullets/Wizards, Capitals and WNBA Mystics. Not to mention to Capital Centre.


Washington, DC: I have heard cynics say that Pollin changed the name of the Bullets to the Wizards as a mere marketing ploy, not out of any genuine sensitivity to gun violence in DC or the assassination of Yitzak Rabin. Do you have insights on that?

George Solomon: Nothing Abe Pollin ever did in his life was for marketing.


Alexandria, Va.: He was a generous man who did a lot for our city, with the crown jewel being the MCI (now Verizon) Center, which revived the city. I had GW basketball tickets tonight, but I think I will go to the wizards game instead. He didn't spend the most money and didn't have the most high-profile team, but he was a great owner. The Snyders and Lerners of the world could learn a lesson from him.

George Solomon: We all agree--including Ted Lerner and Dan Snyder -- that Abe Pollin was a great man.


Sacramento, Calif.: Abe Pollin was one of the best friends our city will ever know. I had the pleasure of working with him when I co-chaired the Save the Caps committee in the early '80s. Despite being attacked by sportswriters and politicians alike, Abe was steadfast in his belief that DC could and should support its NHL team if it ever wanted to get major league baseball back. Turns out he was absolutely right.

It is a pity that most of the public has no idea how much Abe Pollin gave to our community and how much he will be missed. My sympathies to his family and friends.

George Solomon: No one would argue what you just said.


Arlington: Will Pollin's biggest legacy be that he single-handedly revitalized Chinatown with the MCI (now Verizon) Center?

George Solomon: Pollin's legacy extends far beyond a neighborhood, teams and sports .... ask any current and former D.C. mayor. Or anyone who ever tried to raise money for a cause in town.


Arlington, Va.: What's your favorite Abe Pollin anecdote?

George Solomon: My favorite memory of Abe Pollin was his literally climbing on and hugging Wes Unseld that night in Seattle when the Bullets won the 1978 NBA championship.


Alexandria, Va.: About the worst thing you can say about the man is that he was too loyal to some of his employees. If you have to have a failing, that's not a bad one to have.

George Solomon: You can never be too loyal.


George Solomon: Last answer: We all agree Washington lost one of its greatest citizens and leave the future to tomorrow.

Many thanks for the questions.


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