Shepard: John Wall created powerful legacy with Wizards

John Wall, who spent a decade with the Washington Wizards, left an indelible mark both on the franchise and in the community, David Shepard says

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
December 07, 2020 - 8:14 pm
John Wall Wizards

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When John Wall got traded to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook last week, nobody was surprised. What was surprising was how harsh the media was on Wall. Three narratives kept coming up about the All-Star point guard in regard to why he was traded:

1) He is the most overpaid player in the NBA. Beginning in 2019, he was playing on a four-year $170 million contract. He was never a true franchise player and he wasn’t deserving of that kind of money.
2) He and fellow Wizards teammate Bradley Beal didn’t get along.
3) Wall was immature, as evidenced by a video that surfaced of him in 2020 throwing up gang signs.

Let’s address these FALSE narratives one at a time. Wall deserved every cent of that four-year contract. He was not only a franchise player when he signed that massive deal, but also well on his way to becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He is still getting in, by the way!

Wall was a five-time All-Star by the age of 27. The same amount of All-Star selections as Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, who played until he was 39 years old. Those five All-Star selections are also equivalent to how many both Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson have. Lillard and Thompson have two things in common: they are older than Wall, and they will also be Hall of Fame locks four years after they both retire. Steph Curry will turn 33 years old in March; he has just one more All-Star selection than Wall. 

Wall had collected over 5,000 assists by the ripe old age of 27. Only 63 players in the history of the NBA accomplished that for their entire careers. He already has more career assists than Walt Clyde Frazier and Gail Goodrich, two Hall of Fame point guards.

Wall is not just a great facilitator; he is a tremendous scorer. His career averages in points per game is equal to the great Tim Duncan! His scoring averages are better than the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul. Those players are decent!  

More importantly than strictly putting up great numbers, Wall was THE difference for the Wizards when it came to their success. The Wizards, in the last five full seasons Wall played, never had a losing season. When Wall went down in December 2018 with the heel injury, the Wizards finished with their first losing season in six years. Without Wall for the entirety of the 2019-20 season, the Wizards lost two-thirds of their games.

Let’s get to the whole Bradley Beal ordeal. Here’s what Wall’s fellow backcourt member had to say when Wall was traded. “You know John left tremendous, tremendous impact on the city of D.C. [and] he left a tremendous impact on me and my family.” They had such a good relationship that Beal wrote an emotional farewell letter to Wall, who he described as a brother. This doesn’t sound like two players having tension and ill-will toward each other. In fact, it sounds like the exact opposite. 

Finally, let’s address the infamous Wall video. Wall took full responsibility for it. Here’s what he said on his Twitter account: "First and foremost I want to apologize to my family, my teammates and all of those that have always supported me, I made a mistake, something I regret. I will continue to work hard to be better on the court and more importantly off the court."

If you look at the totality of the decade in which Wall spent in Washington, very few players did more to help their community. Earlier this year, the former Wizards guard reached his goal of raising $300,000 in 30 days to help Ward 8 residents pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wall did so much more than this…

Beginning in his early 20s, through his John Wall Foundation, he donated backpacks and school supplies to local children from first to eighth grades at the Rosedale Community Center in Northeast Washington. Every year, Wall ventured into his community and donated free backpacks and school supplies to children in need in the surrounding community. He did this for seven years.

The most notable and inspiring part of Wall’s Wizards tenure was when he befriended Miyah Telemaque-Nelson, a 6-year-old girl who was fighting cancer. She had been battling Burkitt's Lymphoma five months prior to meeting Wall. Wall started a social media campaign to help Miyah meet rapper Nicki Minaj. According to CSN Washington, Wall wrote the little girl's name on his shoes all season and was in constant communication with her. When she passed away, Wall was truly devastated, but through his generosity and kindness her legacy continues to live on.
If you truly look at the whole decade of Wall’s career in Washington, he left an incredible mark on the franchise and community. He was a great player. He made his teammates better. Just look at the wins when he was on the court compared to the losses when he wasn’t. Keep in mind the emotional response from Beal when he addressed not having Wall as a teammate anymore. 

When Wall made a mistake, he took 100% accountability for it. Off the court, he constantly gave back to the DC community with his money, platform and heart. The Wizards were tremendously lucky to have this man for a decade. He was not just a true franchise player, but a great person. The next chapter begins for Wall in about two weeks, and I have a feeling the Rockets are going to find out very soon just how lucky they are as well! 

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.