Dear John Wall,
I’ll be honest. I didn’t know if I’d like you at first. In the eyes of a young kid who first embraced Washington Wizards fandom in the early 2000s, you didn’t seem right for us.
The Wizards I knew were led by Gilbert Arenas — a second round pick who just so happened to end up in Washington from a coin flip. Our other stars, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, were both really good but not exactly household names. That unsung Big 3 carried us into the first taste of basketball relevance I’ve ever known.
We never went far, but at least we went.
Then D.C. won the NBA Draft Lottery in 2010.
Here you were with your hype-as-hell HoopsMixTape on YouTube, doing the Dougie while dancing to your own theme song. It was hard to welcome you with open arms at first, especially because you played the same position as the first star player I’ve ever cared about. I wasn’t prepared to let go just yet.
It took all of three games for you to win me over. You put on a show during your first night at the Verizon Center while simultaneously putting the entire league on notice.
29 points, 13 assists, 9 steals, and one new, hopelessly infatuated teenage fan.
That school boy crush turned into a passionate love affair in the years to come.
Your fast-break scores at breakneck speeds. The way you could drive so deep into the paint then at the last second wrap around a pass to Marcin Gortat for a dunk. How you hypnotized me into believing that every small forward we’ve ever had was a world-beater, simply because you served them open 3s on a silver platter. To this day, I romanticize Martell Webster as the OG Klay Thompson because of you. Ditto for Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter.
But what really cemented my devotion for you was the fact that you were so great and yet also flawed. You never became a lethal outside shooter, no matter how many grainy offseason clips of you draining seven straight 3s I’d find on the internet. You were turnover-prone and sometimes aggressive on drives to a fault. And despite coming into the league with the world at your fingertips, you still played with a chip on your shoulder and everything to prove.
You were no golden boy, but you were ours.
We never made it past the East Semis. That was hardly by any fault of yours, though.
We weren’t supposed to beat Indiana in 2014 anyway, but we still gave them a scare. Every Hawks fan in Georgia knows we would’ve won over Atlanta in 2015 if you didn’t injure your wrist (or if Al Horford got called for the loose ball foul in Game 5). I still remember staring at this photo of your swollen hand trying to persuade myself it wasn’t that bad.
Then there was Boston in 2017.
You were at the absolute height of your powers this year. You went from 17 points per game in your first two playoff runs to 27 points and playoff intensity level dialed up to 11. Washington’s favorite son had arrived. You capped it off with the greatest sports moment my Wizards-loving self could ever ask for.
Just a month before the trade was announced, I had just changed my Facebook cover photo to this exact moment. After two years of missing my favorite player crossing up defenders on the hardwood, you were finally making your way back. I’d seen every snippet of your pickup games so far, gauging how much of your explosiveness was still there from each second of those clips. I was convinced you’d be back to your old self.
In no time you’d be on top of the announcers’ table again, screaming that this was your city.
But things didn’t exactly happen the way any of us expected them to. I’d like to think that I’m totally fine with it, but I’m clearly not. And I’m not sure when I’ll be 100% comfortable with you in another uniform, or if that moment ever even comes.
Despite that, know that you will always have two fan bases cheering for you from now on. The one from whatever team you play for, and the one grown from every assist you made in Washington, both on and off the court.
To us Wizards fans, John Wall will forever be the best point guard in the East (especially over Kyrie Irving). The absolute maestro behind our offense for an entire decade. The greatest shot-blocking guard of all time, pinning any fastbreak layup on the backboard. The only man who would’ve beaten LeBron James in the East and you can’t convince me otherwise. The Wall-Star who gave us his all while donning the red, white, and blue.
To me, John Wall will always be D.C.
Wishing you all the best,
A hopeless Wizards fan