With the NBA inching closer towards normalcy after two seasons heavily altered by the coronavirus, the Wizards were able to bring back their annual tradition of holding an open practice for fans.
For the location, they chose to pay homage to their past and also go back to where several members of their organization grew up. The practice was held at Morgan St. University in Baltimore, Md.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is from the Baltimore area, where his NBA legend father's school for underprivileged kids still operates. Rookie big man Isaiah Todd is also from the city, as well as others behind the scenes including assistant general manager Brett Greenberg.
The Wizards played in Baltimore from 1963 to 1973 as the Bullets before moving to Washington. Those days were a golden age for the franchise where they regularly went on deep playoff runs led by Wes Unseld Sr.
"It’s always a great opportunity to get home," Unseld Jr. said.
The history aside, it was Todd who was front-and-center on Monday. He was in the promotional photo alongside star guard Bradley Beal. Todd also addressed the crowd before the practice began, pronouncing 'Maryland' like a true Baltimore native.
Todd also won the brief dunk contest between him, Daniel Gafford and Jay Huff. It was decided by who got the biggest applause from the crowd. Naturally, they gave it up for the local guy.
"Basketball was pretty much my life growing up here. It has installed character in me since the time I started school. It’s something I’ve carried with me since I left Baltimore," Todd said.
It was a family affair for Todd whose mom, aunt, brother, sister and cousins were in the stands. His cousin, Reggie Holmes, also had a huge poster on the wall of the arena commemorating his legendary career at Morgan State from 2006 to 2010.
Holmes was the MEAC player of the year and the school's all-time leading scorer.
"Reggie Holmes is my cousin. You could tell him I said this, man. I would beat him in 1-on-1 any day," Todd joked.
"Baltimore is its own country and we’re all a family. Just walking in and seeing my cousin is the leading scorer at a university here, that just means something special. For me to be able to carry that out and play for the Wizards and come back, it’s a story, man. That’s beautiful."
Todd also shouted out Baltimore basketball legends like Aquille 'The Crimestopper' Carr, Will Barton and Muggsy Bogues.
Now Todd is an NBA player, one who young children from Baltimore are looking up to as he begins his career with the Wizards. Only 19 years old, it wasn't long ago that Todd was in their shoes.
"There are kids in the crowd who have probably never seen an NBA player before. I remember, if I was a kid out there and still selling water bottles and the Wizards came into town, I would love if they had signed something of mine," Todd said.