Washington Wizards Owner Pollin Dies at 85

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Washington Wizards Owner Pollin Dies at 85


WASHINGTON -- Abe Pollin was the NBA's patriarch, an old-school owner who won a championship and had the mettle to stand up to Michael Jordan. He introduced luxury boxes and the large replay screen to big-time professional sports. He used to have 3-point shooting contests with Wes Unseld.

That's plenty to admire for the rest of the country. In the nation's capital, Pollin will be remembered for so much more.

On Tuesday night, hours after Pollin died at the age of 85, the Washington Wizards played the Philadelphia 76ers in a neighborhood that was torched during the 1968 riots, on a street that most everyone avoided only 15 years ago.

Now the street is called "Abe Pollin Way," and it sits in front of Verizon Center, an arena Pollin risked much of his fortune to build. The building anchors a downtown area flush with theaters, shops and restaurants -- all owing their existence to a man loyal to his city.

"He loved Washington," said Hall of Fame center Unseld, "when some of us at the time really didn't care a lot about it."

A moment of silence was held before the game for the NBA's longest-tenured owner, and the Wizards played with heavy hearts. They had learned of Pollin's death late in the afternoon. No details were disclosed, but he had suffered for years from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disorder that impairs movement and balance. He also had heart bypass surgery in 2005 and broke his pelvis two years later.

"The NBA family has lost its most revered member, whose stewardship of the Wizards franchise, together with his wife Irene, has been a study in unparalleled dedication to the city of Washington," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "During his illness he fought with a determination and valor that will remain an inspiration to all."

With Pollin's death, a group led by longtime AOL executive Ted Leonsis is poised to take ownership of a Washington-area sports empire that began when Pollin purchased the Baltimore Bullets in 1964.

Leonsis previously bought two of Pollin's teams -- the NHL's Capitals in 1999 and the WNBA's Mystics in 2005 -- and secured the right of first refusal to buy the rest of Pollin's Washington Sports and Entertainment holdings -- including the Wizards, Verizon Center and Washington-Baltimore TicketMaster -- when Pollin retired or died.

"We are committed to continuing his tradition of building exciting, championship-caliber teams," Leonsis' ownership group said in a statement.

In the changing world of professional sports, Pollin stood out for decades as an owner who tried to run his teams like a family business. He bemoaned the runaway salaries of free agency and said it would have been difficult for him to keep the Wizards if it weren't for the NBA's salary cap. He was such a father figure that the team's marquee star, Gilbert Arenas, immediately called his own father on the West Coast upon hearing of Pollin's death.

"He was the father away from California," Arenas said. "He wanted a championship before he died. And as long as I'm here, that's what I'm going to be shooting for."

A builder by trade, Pollin also constructed the Verizon Center's predecessor, originally known as the Capital Centre, in the Washington suburbs in 1973. He renamed his NBA team in 1997 because of the violent connotation of the word "Bullets," particularly in a city associated with crime.

The Bullets won the 1978 NBA title, and Pollin maintained he would not sell the franchise until it won another championship -- repeating that vow from his wheelchair as he was inducted into the George Washington University Sports Executives Hall of Fame in March.

"I've contracted a very rare disease, but it's not going to keep me from wining a championship," Pollin said. "Until then I'm not going to quit, and I'm going to do whatever I can to win a championship for this town, for me, and for the fans.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Washington Wizards Owner Pollin Dies at 85
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.