The Washington Wizards rushed out of Capital One Arena on Sunday evening to catch a plane. Although their game against the Toronto Raptors had gone into double overtime, London, and all of its experiences, was calling. And so most of the players grabbed their bags and pointed their cars in the direction of Dulles International Airport for a 7:05 p.m. departure.
However, the charter — packed with players, their families, guests and employees of Monumental Sports & Entertainment — never moved off the frigid tarmac.
Because of snowy conditions, the Wizards remained grounded for more than four hours and then had to return to their homes. The takeoff was rescheduled for Monday evening. But for several players who had previously stated the importance of this business trip — a Thursday matchup against the New York Knicks as part of the NBA Global Games showcase — the wait will be worth it. They expressed childlike enthusiasm about becoming tourists across the Atlantic.
“I always wanted to go growing up. I’ve see things on TV of how beautiful it is. So I’m like, ‘Shoot, why not?’ I like the accent, you know,” Wizards forward Devin Robinson said. “I’m trying to come back with an accent.”
Robinson, who has spent the majority of the season with the Wizards’ G League affiliate, was the last to be invited. Following his Saturday night game with the Capital City Go-Go, Robinson read a text message that advised him to pack his bags. With a little help from his mother, who was in town visiting, Robinson filled a suitcase but saved enough room for souvenirs.
“Oh, I got to shop. I got to find some clothes. Overseas drip,” Robinson said, using a popular slang word for fashionable swag. “That’s what I got to find. So definitely shop.”
Robinson won’t be alone shopping along Oxford Street, or even more A-list destinations.
“I feel like you’ve got to get some exclusive stuff over there,” center Thomas Bryant said. “Ian knows a couple stores, so I’m like: 'Hey Ian! Hit me up whenever!’”
Though Ian Mahinmi, the biggest fashionista in the locker room, plans on shopping as well, he might have the most active London itinerary among his teammates. Besides a Wednesday night NBA Africa dinner he’s scheduled to attend, Mahinmi, a native of northern France, will have several family members and friends in town. For Mahinmi, London presents a rare experience for a “home” game. He anticipates at least 50 of his supporters to be in attendance inside O2 Arena.
“This is kind of a homecoming,” Mahinmi said. “It’s like a game I’ve been waiting for a long time just because it gives an opportunity for all my friends and family to come to the game. A few hours from home. That’s something that’s never happened. So, some of my friends saw me [play] once, like, in their whole life.”
The flight from the Czech Republic’s largest airport to London is only two hours, so Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky also expects to meet up with several friends. However, in his down time, Satoransky, a foodie, has gastronomic goals.
“The restaurants are great there, man,” he said. “I’m looking forward to go to some restaurants.”
Chasson Randle has the same plans. As someone who is a veteran of Europe — Randle has played in the Czech Republic and Spain before becoming the Wizards’ backup point guard — he’s not only looking forward to the restaurants but also picking up British colloquialisms.
“I’ve been to London before and I like the food. The food there is pretty good. You can find just about anything. I like the people’s accents, too. That’s always cool to hear,” Randle said. “They always say: ‘you get me?’ after they finish a sentence.”
Though Randle’s is a simple observation on the language, he seems to have a master’s level of knowledge on British culture compared to his teammates.
During timeouts during the Sunday night game, the Wizards tried their knowledge of all things English in sketches played on the Capital One Arena scoreboard. In one test, players were shown a photo of something and had to respond if it was British or not. When Bradley Beal saw pop star Adele and Harry Potter, both clearly British, he answered no.
The Wizards have a lot to learn about London. But even after their flight was delayed nearly 24 hours, they’ll still have enough time to become British if only for a few days.
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