To the basketball fans in Washington DC who didn’t grow up watching The Bullets back in the 1970’s, the name Phil Chenier brings to mind the cool, collected, color analyst for the Wizards. Most DC residents probably know him for that honestly, as he’s been doing the job for over 30 years. But for those select few who happened to be in DC during the height of Washington basketball, they know Chenier for something else. His picture perfect jump shot.
Chenier used to play shooting guard for the Baltimore/Washington Bullets. He was even the starting shooting guard for the team that went on to win Washington’s only championship, despite the fact the Chenier got injured early in the season and had to sit the rest of it out due to injury. During his time in Washington he made three All-Star appearances, made the NBA All-Rookie First Team and All-NBA second team.
Chenier didn’t have the most illustrious career. But in the context of the Wizards organization he looms large. Earlier this year Yao Ming was inducted into the basketball hall of fame and the Houston Rockets announced they would retire his number. Yao also didn’t have the greatest career, one that ended after just ten years and was marred by injury. He was honored by the Rockets not because he had the greatest career, but because of what he meant to the organization.
That’s the point of retiring a number. To honor someone for the work they’ve put in towards the organization. And no one has done more for the Wizards organization outside of Wes Unseld (let’s forget what Wes Unseld did outside of his playing career though.) Chenier wore a Bullets uniform for eight years, but he’s been a part of the organization and the greater DC community for most of his adult life.
It’s time to raise Chenier’s old 45 among the rafters at the old Phone Booth, right there next to Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. Chenier has given almost everything to this city, to its fans, and to its players. It’s time the city did something to return the favor.