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The Unstoppable, Charming, Incredibly Telegenic Wizards Are Truly Basketball’s Feel-Good Story, No Matter What The Haters And Losers Say

Russell Westbrook, Ish Smith, and Bradley Beal celebrate during the Wizards' win over the Lakers.
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty

Just yesterday I was saying to my sour, buzz-killing Defector colleagues how pure and wonderful the 2021 Washington Wizards are, how despite the naysaying of naysayers their recent run of success is totally legitimate, how in fact on a nightly basis they are one of the best shows on television. In the face of many taunts I held firm that under no circumstances would I turn off a Wizards game before its conclusion, not even if you offered me five whole American dollars. And when the Wizards went out Wednesday night and roughed up the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers—dunked them into a smelly trash can, is what they did—I felt a swell of pride knowing that not only had my absolute favorite professional sports organization in the world once again been rewarded for its extremely solid and canny team-building efforts, I too had been rewarded for refusing to douse the flame of optimism in the face of constant antagonism, even bullying.

[Ed note: The Slack transcript below tells a slightly different story]

Chris: i defy anyone in here to watch three straight full wizards games and then come back in here and say they enjoyed the exercise

Barry: be grateful!

Chris: barrold

watch one single wizards game from front to back

Barry: i’d love to watch my team win ceaselessly!

Chris: i will give you $5 if you can sincerely say you enjoyed it

i sincerely will pay $5 to any non-wizards fan in this slack who can watch one (1) (O-N-E) full Wizards game and say that they enjoyed it

even if it’s a lie

This is what you have to deal with these days, when you have a perfectly reasonable enduring optimism about your basketball team. In today’s climate of ceaseless negativity, those who instead choose the path of hope often walk alone, hounded by trolls who find even the merest glimmer of positivity threatening, even enraging. It’s a sad state of affairs and a dismal sign of the times that a man cannot enjoy his team’s 11-2 surge up the standings, to the very cusp of the extremely respectable Eastern Conference play-in tournament, without being heckled and ridiculed by his own coworkers. Possibly some sort of labor violation has taken place, when you think about it!

[Ed. note: We return once again to the Slack record, and stand prepared to present this evidence in a courtroom setting]

Tom Ley: ok fine but bradley beal is gonna win the scoring title!!! that’s not fun to watch?

Chris: no he’s not

Maitreyi: watch your fine team and like it, dammit

Chris: steph is going to win the scoring title

and the 10th seed in the terrible east is not worth shit

Barry: this is insane! you have the scoring champ and mr. triple-double and your team has lost once since march and all you do is moan!

Chris: please do not pretend otherwise

I for one enjoyed every moment of Wednesday night’s game, in which the reliable and extremely generous and efficient Russell Westbrook—truly one of my favorite players of all time and a guy I fervently hope will play out the remainder of his career with my hometown team—led the valiant Wizards to a dominant 116-107 win over the LeBron-less but Anthony Davis–rich Lakers. Westbrook, who I must stress is the beating heart of this squad and is more than up to the task of leading a team on a deep playoff run, in his age-32 season and beyond, put up another impressive triple-double, with 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists. God, he rules.

[Ed. note: At this point we may have no choice but to initiate civil proceedings of our own]

Chris: he honestly makes more sense the more bleak and horrible his teammates are

but to me he is still absolutely awful to watch

Tom Ley: the wiz are on like a 13-1 run and westbrook is putting up 37-11-11 nights and you grumps are in here grumping every day!

Patrick: mew mew mew im a wizards fan mew mew mew its so hard rooting for the scoring champ mew mew mew i wish my team was cool wah wah wah im a baby

Tom Ley: what specifically is not fun about watching the wiz win 8 in a row while bradley beal scores a bunch of buckets and westbrook gets triple doubles

Barry: yeah! what specifically

Tom Ley: what are the specifics there

that are un-fun

Barry: specify, damn you

Chris: beal is fun

robin lopez is unbearable

and russ just flat out sucks shit to watch

Drew: I disagree on the Russ thing

Chris: if a person can say that James Harden is not fun to watch during MVP 55-win seasons, i can say Russ sucks to watch on this absolutely terrible wizards team

The enduring highlight of this important win for one of the league’s genuinely exciting and real and serious contenders came early in the third quarter, following a miss from outside from Lakers guard Dennis Schröder. The long rebound came to soon-to-be-scoring-champ Bradley Beal; second-year forward Rui Hachimura—who has only seen his development accelerate under Westbrook’s mentorship and steady offensive stewardship—leaked out after contesting Schröder’s jumper from the top of Washington’s 2-3 zone. Beal tossed it ahead to Hachimura, who gathered it in stride and pounded home a vicious one-handed dunk in the grill of Davis, who has led the NBA in blocks in three different seasons and is generally considered one of the best all-around defensive players in basketball.

I was definitely watching this on my television as it happened, because as a diehard Wizards fan who would never even consider throwing in the towel on a modestly successful season simply because one single underperforming rookie suffered a season-ending injury, I simply cannot get enough of my team! And because I am a mature adult I will simply never—never—be baited into a bad and confrontational mood by the aggressive and relentless negativity of my rude, childish coworkers. I am simply better than that. And so are the Washington Wizards!

[Ed. note: Will someone please just call the police]

Maitreyi: i think it’s reasonable, but i think they should simply be unreasonably positive instead

Chris: the thing is when the wiz have a bunch of dopey youths flopping around and losing, i am mr unreasonably positive. but when it’s a miserable busted guy like russ just sucking all the fun out of every single possession, there’s nothing to be even reasonably positive about

everyone in here understands the difference in fun between like a 55-win nuggets team led by Jokic and a 55-win rockets team led by james harden

right up until the guy in the harden role is russ, and the 55 wins are actually 31 wins

and then it’s impossible for it to be bad television

My only wish is that someday my colleagues will set aside their determined miserablism and join me in a healthy, mature, positive appreciation of this delightful sport.

The author pays Barry $5 for having watched the game.Credit: via Venmo
Barry returns the $5 and admits to having skipped "that stupid game."Credit: via Venmo