Like many Washingtonians, I'm not old enough to remember the 1970s Bullets, the era that brought the franchise's lone world championship, four total NBA Finals appearances and a decades-long outbreak of Bullets Fever.
To me, Phil Chenier is and always has been a broadcaster, Wes Unseld was a general manager who drafted God Shammgod and deep playoff runs are something other teams do. True playoff success, as other cities know it in the NBA, has been somewhat of a foreign concept. For an entire generation of D.C.-area natives, like me, positive playoff moments involving the Wizards have been few and far between.
So, what John Wall did on Friday night in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night was in some ways a brand new experience. A Wizards player putting in the playoff performance of his life in a decisive game to lift his team to a series win, that's unusual. When his team needed him most, when basically the rest of the starting lineup got into foul trouble and the Hawks were imposing their will, Wall thoroughly took over. He almost singlehandedly ended Atlanta's season, smiled and waved bye-bye to the Atlanta crowd as he did it.
Wall scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and blocked the heck out of a Dennis Schroder fastbreak layup. He stared down Falcons superstar Julio Jones, rappers Gucci Mane and Quavo, matched their swagger and then some.
All of that, I had never seen.
Wall, in fact, played the best game I have ever witnessed from a Wizards or Bullets player in my life. I'm 29 years old, so we're not talking too deep of a memory bank. Still, what Wall did on Friday night was arguably the best performance of a Wizards or Bullets player in at least a generation.
The numbers back it up. Wall's 42 points were the third-most for one playoff game in franchise history. Elvin Hayes set the record of 46 points back in 1975. Gilbert Arenas hit 44 points in May of 2006, but it came in a loss.
[RELATED: Wall, Beal show out for Wizards in Game 6]
Arenas scored more points than Wall that day and Wall's seven turnovers certainly hurt his cause. But Wall also had eight assists, four steals and two blocks. The last player to have 42 points or more, plus those numbers in a playoff game was Michael Jordan in 1990. Jordan, the greatest player of all time, only did it once in his career. No one else since at least 1983-84, when Basketball Reference's assists and steals numbers date back, has accomplished the feat. Wall also shot 64 percent.
There have been many great games played by Bullets and Wizards players in recent decades, of course. Since the year 2000, a Wizards player has hit 40 points 41 times. Jordan did it seven times, Arenas did it a whopping 24 times in a three-year span, Wall has done it twice before and Bradley Beal accomplished the feat three times this season alone.
Five times since 2000 has a Wizards player dropped 50 points or more. Jordan did it once, Arenas three times and Wall once himself, back in December. Arenas once scored 60 points against the Lakers, then 54 against the Suns just five days later. Both he and Jordan also had numerous buzzer-beaters.
But all of those were in the regular season.
There have been a handful of great playoff performances by Wizards players in recent memory. Since 2005 there have been six games of 35 points or more by Wizards in the playoffs. But nobody has done quite what Wall did. Not Arenas, not Antawn Jamison, not Chris Webber, not anyone in a long, long time.
Wall dropping 42 points, including a 19-point fourth quarter takeover, was special. Like the Wizards winning their division or getting more than 46 wins (49, to be exact) this season, I had never seen anything like it before.
Yet, something tells me that was just the beginning for Wall, that his best is still to come.