Former Washington Bullets shooting guard and current Comcast SportsNet color analyst Phil Chenier poses for a picture before the Washington Wizards game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Verizon Center in Northwest on Feb. 4. (John De Freitas/The Washington Informer)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Wizards announced Thursday that the franchise will raise #45 to the rafters of Capital One Arena this season in honor of Phil Chenier.

Chenier played nine seasons with the Washington Bullets (including the 1977-78 Championship season) and spent 33 seasons as the team’s television color analyst.

“I am so proud to have the honor and blessing of my #45 hanging with the greats of this franchise,” Chenier said. “It’s a statement to my teammates, coaches and all those who have sacrificed, supported and guided me over the many years that says ‘job well done.’ I also share it with the fans who have approached me with kind words and fond memories from both my playing days and my broadcasting career. My whole family is so grateful to Ted Leonsis, the MSE ownership group and the entire organization (from staff to players) who have been so kind, thoughtful and reverent towards me. I would also like to thank the Pollins, who brought me in to this organization 46 years ago, and the many people involved with the team during my early days. I’m so appreciative of each and every experience I’ve had here and can’t wait to share this honor with my D.C. Family in March.”

The Wizards will celebrate Chenier’s jersey retirement on Friday, March 23, when the team hosts the Denver Nuggets. He will join Bullets/NBA legends and former teammates Wes Unseld (#41), Elvin Hayes (#11), Gus Johnson (#25) and Earl Monroe (#10) as the fifth player to have his number retired by the organization.

“As both a player and a broadcaster, Phil has been a pillar of our Bullets and Wizards family,” said Ted Leonsis, Washington Wizards owner. “If you’re a fan, Phil has played a role in your connection to this team and this organization. We are thrilled to retire his jersey this season and to express our gratitude for his irreplaceable contributions to our D.C. family.”

An All-Star for the Bullets in 1974, 1975 and 1977, Chenier still holds the franchise record for most points scored in a non-overtime game (53) and ranks among the all-time franchise leaders in field goals made (tied for fourth), points scored (sixth), minutes played (sixth) and games played (ninth). Over his nine seasons and 546 games with the franchise, the smooth shooting guard averaged 17.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting .446 from the field and .807 from the free throw line. Over 60 playoff games, he averaged 18.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting .450 from the field and .845 from the free throw line.

Chenier averaged over 19 points per game for five consecutive seasons (1972-77) and was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 1974-75, when he also finished eighth in MVP voting after averaging 21.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.3 steals to help lead the team to the NBA Finals. He was originally drafted by the Bullets in the 1971 Hardship Draft out of California and retired in 1981 after 10 NBA seasons.

“Phil always gave his best, came to play every night and would have been one of the greatest of his time if it wasn’t for injuries,” Unseld said. “But he was more than a great player, he was a great teammate who made us all better and is a quality person who has been able to take those traits we knew as a player and apply them to his broadcasting career, becoming an asset to the organization and the city for over 40 years.”

Following his playing days, Chenier began the first season of his long broadcasting career in 1984-85 by providing color analysis on what was then known as Home Team Sports (now CSN Mid-Atlantic). He was paired with play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz during the 1996-97 season and the duo began a partnership that spanned 20 seasons and countless memorable on-air moments.

“Classy, dignified, informed and prepared, Phil has exemplified the very best as a player and broadcaster,” Buckhantz said. “Growing up with the Bullets with Phil as one of my role models made a huge impact on me, so it has been an honor and blessing to spend the last twenty years alongside him as a partner and a friend. I will feel a tremendous amount of pride watching his number 45 jersey raised to join the other greatest Bullets of all time.”

Chenier has also served as a popular ambassador during his 42 total years of service to the Bullets/Wizards organization, working countless camps, clinics, community service projects and fan events. He will continue to work with the team by being featured in Monumental Sports Net’s Wizards content, with a larger presence in the Washington Bullets & Wizards Alumni Association and in a variety of other key roles within the organization. Chenier will also remain active on Wizards broadcasts for CSN Mid-Atlantic.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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