The Washington Bullets’ 1978 Championship Trophy Was Abandoned in Someone’s Closet

by April 05, 2013

The Washington Post has published a fun, wacky story about the old Bullets losing the 1978 NBA championship trophy — Washington’s lone title — at the bottom of a team employee’s closet. Owner Ted Leonsis led the search party that eventually retrieved (and fixed up) the precious piece of hardware. The Wizards are honoring members of the 1977-’78 squad this weekend: “Shortly after taking control of the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center in 2010, Ted Leonsis started asking team employees what he figured was an obvious question with an easy answer: Where’s the trophy? But instead of a simple answer, all Leonsis got in return was a lot of puzzled looks, shrugged shoulders and I-don’t-knows. Nobody, it seemed, had any clue as to the whereabouts of the 1978 Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, symbolizing the lone NBA title in Bullets/Wizards franchise history. But then, finally, there was a breakthrough. Someone recalled someone else saying sometime awhile back that Smokey Bowie, the late building manager/head engineer/jack-of-all-trades who had been with the franchise since the old Capital Centre days until passing away a few years ago, had at some point taken it home with him for safekeeping. And sure enough, a carload of team employees dispatched to Bowie’s old house found the trophy — scuffed up, tarnished and dented — at the bottom of a closet. ‘They bring it in,’ Leonsis recalled this week, “and it’s got dings in it, it’s matted, not shiny. My wife [Lynn] is best friends with the woman who runs Tiffany’s in Tysons Corner, so I asked her to look at it, and I said, ‘Look at this – this is what we spend a billion dollars over our lifetime to try to win, and it’s been sitting in someone’s closet. Can you fix it?’ It took about three months, but it came back perfect.’ The trophy – which former owner Abe Pollin had famously paraded through Dulles International Airport the day after Game 7 of the NBA Finals, after the team’s flight home from Seattle was met by some 8,000 delirious fans – now resides in a setting worthy of its beauty and import: on a pedestal, in a glass case near the main entrance to the arena. It is spot-lit and surrounded by memorabilia from the greatest season in franchise history.”