Max Smith, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – They didn’t have champagne in the locker room after winning the NBA title, but the 1977-78 Washington Bullets are going to be honored at the Verizon Center Saturday night, 35 years after their Game 7 win over the Seattle Supersonics.
‘The Washington Bullets have won it all’
WTOP’s Max Smith
The team had experienced stars like Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Bob Dandridge and Phil Chenier alongside younger players like Kevin Grevey and Mitch Kupchak.
After beating the Hawks, Spurs and Julius Irving’s 76ers as the three-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bullets entered an unusual series against the Seattle Supersonics.
“Back then, they didn’t reserve the arenas in advance,” Kupchak, who is now the general manager of the Lakers, says. “The NBA wasn’t that big. So when we got to the finals, the people in Seattle and the people in Washington said, ‘Well, when’s your building available, and when’s our building available, so we can figure out when to play?'”
Due to scheduling conflicts for building use, the Bullets ended up flying across the U.S. several times.
“The first game was in Seattle, then we flew back to Washington for two, flew back to Seattle for two, flew back to Washington for one, then flew back to Seattle for Game 7,” Kupchak says. “So that’s the odd thing about that series that many people don’t remember,” Kupchak says.
Another odd thing: the celebration after the Bullets’ Game 7 win at the Kingdome.
“We all jumped off the court [and] sprinted to the locker room, just knowing that there was going to be a setup with bottles of champagne that you can grab the bottles and pull the corks and start shooting at each other, and we got into the locker room and there was nobody in there,” Kupchak says. “There was nothing in there. So we’re jumping around, looking around, and then we kinda realize that there’s nothing there. So somebody went and got some Heineken beers in the bottle and you shook those up and you popped them.”
Bernie Bickerstaff was an assistant coach on the team. He remembers the big parade as Washington celebrated its first major sports title in 36 years.
“The fans were out and we were in the cars with the tops down, and it was terrific,” he says.
The Bullets went back to the finals the next year and lost. The franchise has not been back since. The last time a Washington team won a title in one of the “big four” sports was the 1991 NFL season, when Mark Rypien led the Redskins over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
The Wizards will honor the Bullets’ title team at halftime during Saturday night’s game against the Pacers.
Follow @WTOP on Twitter.