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Posted at 5:02 PM ET, 11/23/2010

One year after his father's death, Robert Pollin reflects

By Michael Lee

Don't forget, my dad hired you, Mr. Stern. (AP Photo)

On Nov. 24 of last year, Abe Pollin was having lunch with his wife, Irene, and son, Robert, when he decided that he was going to attend a Washington Wizards game. His health was waning because of a rare brain disease, keeping him from making many public appearances. And he feared showing up at Verizon Center and having fans react to him looking in poor condition.

Although he was having difficulty keeping his eyes open, Abe Pollin was encouraged by his work in a pool with a physical therapist earlier in the day, so he decided to watch his beloved team play the Philadelphia 76ers after some prodding from his wife and older son.

"He loved going to the games so much, so that's why, even though he was in bad shape, it was important to encourage him," Robert Pollin said in a telephone interview. He told him, "C'mon on dad, you've got to get to the game."

Abe Pollin finally committed. When lunch concluded, Robert Pollin grabbed his father's wheelchair and started to pull him away from the table. He noticed that his father's eyes had suddenly opened wide and initially thought that Abe Pollin was forcing them open to prepare himself for later in the evening. But the reality was more traumatic: He was having a seizure that led to his death at the age of 85.

"So, one of his last thoughts was about going to a game," Robert Pollin said on the eve of the anniversary of Abe Pollin's death. "That was the last conversation that we had."

Abe Pollin brought the District an NBA title in 1978 and he spent the rest of his life chasing in vain and hoping for another ring. The past year has been a difficult one for his family, which has had to cope with his death, and part ways with the franchise he purchased for $1 million in 196, and the downtown arena that he bull-headedly built and opened in 1997. They sold those entities, as well as other properties, to Ted Leonsis last June.

"Just like anybody, losing your father, especially if you have a great guy as a father, that's very hard," Robert Pollin said, "and on top of that, we had to go through the sale of the team -- starting almost immediately after he died, we had to start making preparations, looking into that. So it's been an unusual year. It's been a lot of difficult stuff. We have a lot of close friends that worked at the arena and had to say goodbye to all of that. But people go through much more difficult things and you have to go through it."

Leonsis and the Wizards will honor his memory on Tuesday with a moment of silence before they play the 76ers in a rematch of the game Abe Pollin had hoped to attend. The Wizards won that game, 108-107, as Louis Williams's potential game-winning jumper rolled around the rim as time expired. Afterward, Coach Flip Saunders and then-76ers Coach Eddie Jordan suggested that Pollin swatted the shot away from afar.

"He does do unusual things, maybe that was one if his last acts," Robert Pollin said with a laugh.

In one of her last acts as majority owner of the Wizards, Irene Pollin brought to the NBA draft lottery in Secaucus, N.J., a good luck charm in the form of her late husband's championship ring. She left behind an indelible image of her mouth agape as the franchise won the No. 1 overall pick, which turned out to be John Wall. That night, Irene Pollin reflected on her time with the team, saying, "It's been a wonderful, incredible journey, all the things we did. The championship. Trips to Russia, to China, to Scandanavia. I think we've had some incredible experiences."

Irene Pollin and her younger son, Jim, attended the home opener against Philadelphia on Nov. 2, but the family has maintained a relatively low profile since selling the team to Leonsis. Robert Pollin said their devotion to the Wizards remains the same. "I'm a Wizards fan, that doesn't change. It's just I don't have to pay the bills anymore."

Robert Pollin said he is excited about the possibilities of the young Wizards. "I think they have a good team. It's exciting to see Wall emerging. He could be a superstar. Gilbert seems to be settling in with his skills. You've got one guy who can score 25 points a night and another guy who looks like he could score 25 points a night and get you 10 assists. So if you can get them working with some good complementary players, they could get good. It could take a while, but they could get good. If those two big guys [Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee] blossom, you've got a good core there.

He added that it is weird not being involved after so many years. "It's a huge change," he said. "But we're grown-ups. We have to adjust."

By Michael Lee  | November 23, 2010; 5:02 PM ET
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Next: Open thread: Wizards (4-8) vs. 76ers (3-11)


Which one is Rober? the real Pollin kid who actually resembles Abraham or is he the fat Milkman's Kid that appears at events with Irene?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 23, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Way to stay classy, lil.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 23, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

That was a rude, unnecessary remark.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | November 23, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Wall is a game time decison but if he plays he will come off the bench Flip just said.

Im definitely fine with Wall coming off the bench. He missed a few games and could come off the bench for atleast 1 game like Gil did. Also, Wall is probably the guy hurt the least by coming off the bench. You can tell his game & attitude would not be effected at all. He comes in and immediatly speeds up the tempo. Im not with it being long term but for a game or a few games is fine, atleast until Kirk

Posted by: dlts2041 | November 23, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I hope the guys dont expect an easy win. It seems like one of those typical Wiz games where the fans expect something and then we dont come out ready while the other team comes out fired up. We end up scoring like 13pts in the 1st quarter and trailing by 15 or more. Typical Wiz crap. Hoped it doesnt happen. Then We come back behind Wall but its still a crappy game. Weve got to be focus and the vets have to lead so things like that dont happen

Posted by: dlts2041 | November 23, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

"Abe Pollin brought the District its first professional sports title in 1978"? Uh, not quite. How can so many at a formerly great newspaper be so misinformed so often? Does Mr. Lee share a researcher with Ms. Boren?

Posted by: truke | November 23, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

"Abe Pollin brought the District its first professional sports title in 1978"? Uh, not quite. How can so many at a formerly great newspaper be so misinformed so often? Does Mr. Lee share a researcher with Ms. Boren?

Posted by: truke | November 23, 2010 7:09 PM

You sure he's wrong? What team in DC won before that? Skins didn't get their first until the 80's. Please inform us.

Posted by: Wizbullets88 | November 23, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Washington Senators

Posted by: djnnnou | November 23, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Washington Senators

Posted by: djnnnou | November 23, 2010 8:21 PM

Actually it was the Washington Nationals who won the world championship in 1924 with Walter Johnson.

Posted by: RedCherokee | November 24, 2010 1:29 AM | Report abuse

Michael Lee is correct when he said, "Abe Pollin brought the District an NBA title in 1978...". However it should have read, "Abe Pollin brought the District its first NBA title in 1978...".

Anyway, great article, Mike! The mere mention of Irene's "indelible image of her mouth agape as the franchise won the No. 1 overall pick" brought tears to my eyes.

Posted by: RedCherokee | November 24, 2010 2:16 AM | Report abuse

Greatest gift Abe gave ro DC was Penn Quarter & Chinatown.
All the economic prosperity it created.


Posted by: Rocc00 | November 24, 2010 2:26 AM | Report abuse

Wow, people really don't know? The Redskins were champions in 1937 and 1942. The Senators won the World Series in 1924. You could have Googled it...

Posted by: truke | November 24, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and RedCherokee, the franchise was the same. They went back and forth between Senators and Nationals but are generally referred to as the Senators over the long haul.

Posted by: truke | November 24, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Michael Lee has a special fondness for the worst owner this town has ever seen. Abe Pollin was beyond incompetent, beyond cheap, beyond capable of hiring the right people for the job.

Yes, he build Verizon Center with his own money and guess what, the value of the venue skyrocketed during his tenure. Does Michael Lee seriously not understand that Pollin profited greatly off of the building? The best thing the city ever did to Pollin was say no to funding the MCI Center, meaning Pollin got to invest his own money and all the equity in the building went to him instead of the city.

Basics, Michael Lee. Basics.

Posted by: Barno1 | November 24, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey Barno1, you aren't very bright are you?
Keep it classy

Posted by: Adamp | November 30, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

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