John Wall’s exodus brings a time of reflection for Washington fans

On December 2, John Wall and a first-round pick were traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook. Wall was the starting point guard for the Washington Wizards for eight years until injuries plagued him for the last two years.  The news left many Wizards fans in disbelief.  Some tweeting “My boy John Wall really doesn’t play for the Wizards any more. 2020 has been a year…” and “still can’t wrap my head around westbrook being a wizard and john wall not.”

And fans feel rightfully so.  Wall spent a decade in the District, averaging 19.0 points, 9.2 and 1.7 steals, 5 All-Star appearances, and led Washington to the playoffs four times.  When Wall arrived in D.C. in 2010, the team was in shambles.  Plagued by poor play and questionable actions by the players, the team seemed to have no direction.  After years of ineptitude and incompetence, Wall’s presence represented a symbol of competitiveness, winning, and hope.  But it wasn’t just Wall’s impact on the court that won the hearts of Washingtonians, it was his work off the court.

Wall embodied everything that D.C. loves in a star.  Just like his predecessors, Wall is a genuine person with no filter who performed highly in their field.  In a city filled with inauthentic personalities, seeing someone as honest and blunt as Wall was refreshing.  Sometimes his bluntness came at a fault, like when he said his teammate Marcin Gortat gets the most assists from me and the most spoon-fed baskets ever,” It reminded the people of men like Sean Taylor, Gilbert Arenas, and John Riggins, and what ultimately drew fans to Wall.

And the feeling was mutual for Wall.  He embraced the city as if he was raised here.  In his first public interview since the trade, Wall expressed his love for D.C.I was a skinny kid, 19 years old with no facial hair, and getting to know where I was going in life. They watched me grow up to be this grown man that has two beautiful boys, has a family at home. … I love them. My heart is always going to be there.” 

Wall was coming off of back to back season ending injuries that was coupled with an enormous contract, but he gave so much to the people of D.C., residents of Ward 8 in particular.  Wall’s foundation “John Wall Family Foundation” has provided relief for many underprivileged families in the city.  Every year Wall hosts a “Back to School Giveaway” to provide kids supplies for the upcoming school year.  Even this year Wall provided rent for those who couldn’t afford it due to COVID and provided frontline workers with meals.  He even held a Thanksgiving food drive amidst the rumors that he could be on his way out of D.C.

He was more than just an athlete to this city, he was one of us.  Though he comes from North Carolina, he is a Washingtonian.  In a decade, the people have seen Wall contribute more to this city than some council members have.  His love for the city matched his love for the game, and years from now his jersey will hang from the rafters.