You may have heard already, but in case you haven’t… The Wizards are commemorating the 30th anniversary of owner Abe Pollin and the Washington Bullets’ historic trip to China, which took place after then President Jimmy Carter’s signing of normalization of relations between the U.S. and China.
Pollin and the Bullets, led by Hall of Famer Wes Unseld accepted an invitation from Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping to become the first NBA team to visit China. Thirty years later, the Wizards are going back to China.
From Sept. 5 to 15, former Bullets Wes Unseld and Gheorghe Muresan and current Wizards Caron Butler and Randy Foye, and team officials, including President of Business Operations Peter Biché, director of player programs Ed Tapscott and assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. will visit Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Yingxiu. Also making the trip will be Tony Cheng of D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood.
The Wizards’ trip will include charitable activities at local universities and high schools and a series of basketball clinics. Hosting the Wizards are the China People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in D.C. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and the U.S. Consulates in the surrounding Chinese cities are also partners in the trip.
“We thought the best way to pay homage to the anniversary of our historic trip in 1979 was to return to China, because thirty years ago it was unheard of to travel overseas with an NBA team,” Pollin said in a press release issued this afternoon by the team. “I am very proud that we were the first NBA team to visit China, and I’m thrilled that NBA fans there will have an opportunity to re-connect with our franchise through former players like Wes and Gheorghe and current players like Caron and Randy.”
The Wizards tomorrow will hold a press conference to discuss the upcoming trip. And D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong will be making a presentation. Butler, Wes Unseld Sr. and Piche also will be on hand, so I’ll have their takes on/expectations for the trip tomorrow.