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Carl Walton is what you might consider an NBA G League enthusiast. On Saturday night in Southeast, the 58-year-old D.C. resident was among the announced crowd of 2,383 that included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Ward 8. Walton had come to watch the first game in the history of the Capital City Go-Go, the Wizards’ G League affiliate.
“I’m a true basketball fan,” he says, adding that he has seen the Greensboro Swarm, the Go-Go’s opponent, play in the past. “So I like seeing basketball at all levels. But to see guys that are pursuing their dream, it adds to the intensity of the moment and I really like seeing that happen.”
While the Washington Wizards may not be giving fans much to cheer about, the Go-Go’s debut game in its inaugural season offered plenty of promise despite an overtime loss to the Swarm, 107-105, in front of a sparse, but energetic crowd.
Go-Go guard Chasson Randle led all scorers with 37 points. He and teammate Devin Robinson, an athletic wing who scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, were the dominant forces for Capital City. Rookie guard Devonte’ Graham scored 31 points to lead the Swarm, who are affiliated with the Charlotte Hornets.
“I’m glad it’s out of the way,” head coach Jarrell Christian told reporters after the game, noting that it was the first of 50. “It was a good experience … The crowd was electric, we got a lot of energy from them.”
The Go-Go christened Southeast’s newly built Entertainment and Sports Arena, just off the Congress Heights Metro station, with multiple big names present. In addition to Silver, who sat several rows up from the court, former Wizards color analyst Phil Chenier and Wizards star Bradley Beal also stayed to watch the back-and-forth competition.
They were joined by a number of interested parties—people connected to the city or game through their local communities. The team displayed its own style all night and paid homage to its nickname. Go-go music roared from the speakers during timeouts, the national anthem performer sang along to a go-go drum beat, and go-go music legends were honored during halftime.
Donna Guihon, a Mystics season-ticket holder, found out about the team through a Mystics cross-promotion and came to check out some of the future stars in the Wizards’ organization like Robinson.
Guihon’s presence exemplifies the kind of exposure the Go-Go hope to bring to this part of the city. She’s looking forward to coming back for Mystics games.
“This is actually my first time in this area,” she says. “I’m from [Prince George’s] County, so it’s exciting to see that they’re building out here.”
Walton, the G League fan, also sees the potential for the Go-Go in Southeast.
“They’ve got a good product out here,” he says. “I think it’s great, particularly in this community, to see something come up in the area and I hope it leads to even better things.”
Paul St. Pierre, 24, a graduate business student at George Washington University, came for a unique learning opportunity. His professor tempted him with the possibility of speaking to Silver at halftime. “I think it’s a nice arena,” St. Pierre says. “It’s definitely a good way to spend a Saturday night.”
On the floor above the court, 25-year-old Princess Frederick of Temple Hills, operated a face-painting station for the kids in attendance. A steady flow of young basketball fans walked over to her during the game.
“I love it,” she says of the environment. “It was a nice crowd, I thought it might have been a Go-Go [music] concert at first. … I think it will bring a lot of people together … We have a lot of young kids in this area, everyone is connected.”
The Go-Go roster also includes a Southeast native, Devin Sweetney, who made his professional debut in the United States after a lengthy career internationally. Saturday night provided Sweetney with a memory he’ll likely never forget.
“It was an amazing feeling running out that tunnel,” he says. “Just seeing people I grew up with and have known my whole life, supporting us… We did some good things and I’m excited for this season.”