Once upon a time, John Wall, coming out of Word of God Christian Academy, was nicknamed “God” by the Kentucky basketball fans. That’s a pretty strong statement for a young man playing basketball. Then again, John Wall has a history of making statements. When he was 14, he dunked for the first time in a game. And it was an and-one. When he was introduced to the Kentucky fans at Big Blue Madness, he performed, for the first time, the “John Wall Dance,” and his legacy at UK, along with this dance, gave an unknown hip-hop group a spot on the Billboard and a recording contract. In his first unofficial exhibition as a Wildcat, he dropped 27 points and 9 assists in 28 minutes. And then, in his first real game with Kentucky, versus Miami Ohio, he hit the game-winner with .5 seconds left.
For his collegiate achievements, he was awarded the Adolph Rupp award, one of the top awards in the country, and he is one of only three freshman to ever do so.
He was drafted number one overall by the Washington Wizards, and was runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award, coming in behind Blake Griffin, who was actually drafted the year before.
And now, John Wall has faded to an afterthought in the world of NBA point guards after only 2 ½ seasons. Kyrie Irving was just named NEXT for the NBA by ESPN, an annual series that Wall was featured in behind Kevin Durant a few years ago. Damian Lillard outshines all other rookies. And Wall, sitting out with a knee injury, has had to watch his team fall to a dismal record of 3-22. Whenever he finally returns, the season is already a lost cause. So the league will watch Kyrie Irving rise to stardom, stand awestruck as Ricky Rubio throws ridiculous passes, and eagerly await the return of Derrick Rose. Not to mention the fact that Tony Parker, Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Russell Westbrook are all leading their teams into the fray that will be this year’s NBA playoffs. It’s easy to get buried in the ranks of NBA point guards these days.
But John Wall is still a freak athlete. He still posterized Jerry Stackhouse while he was in high school. He still was one of three (count em, three) players to average 16 points and 8 assists last season. He still is blinding quick and leads one of the most dangerous fast breaks in the association. It is for these reasons that John Wall comes in at number 10 on this countdown of players who are still ready to take the spotlight, even if we’re focused somewhere else.
When John Wall returns, he’s going to come back swinging. The word from Washington is that he has been somewhat sullen and mopy during his time on the sideline. Surprising? No. In his sophomore year of high school, he talked back to a coach in a frustrated manner and was benched for two games. He learned from that and he said it changed him going forward. When John Wall comes back, I expect him to launch himself into action against team after team as they take the lowly Wizards lightly. Wall described himself as a player with a chip on his shoulder, and two season in Washington is hardly the experience a 22-year-old needs to become a star in professional basketball. When he comes back, he will be surrounded by a roster of unmotivated semi-stars, with Jordan Crawford, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin highlighting the roster. With seemingly nothing to lose, Wall might get the chance to shoot all game and get out and run with some talented young guards.
The knock against Wall is his inability to shoot. I’m not going to call him out on his jumpshot yet. For one, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were both terrible 3 point shooters when they entered the league, and neither are elite by any means even now. Wall actually shot 32% in college from 3, granted from a shorter distance, but I refuse to believe that a player as talented as him who shoots free throws well and has a decent looking shot can’t improve that area of his game. He focused on that during this off-season, which is, in a way, his first “real” off-season.
Unfortunately, Wall is further evidence of how difficult it is for some players to get the media attention that they “deserve.” Some places, like the Pacific Northwest, are largely ignored. Some teams, like the Washington Wizards, despite the rise of Washington sports, also are lost among sports reports. John Wall is going to be a star in this league, and at one time, everyone knew that. Nothing’s changed about John Wall, just the setting he is in. Once upon a time, he was “God.” As much as I strongly dislike playing with religious terms, Wall may one day be a messiah again, and we’ll all be flexing to the Troop 41 song just like old times. It’s still John Wall’s turn.
It’s Still Your Turn Countdown
10. John Wall
9. Coming Soon
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Soli Deo Gloria