John Wall has had an amazing start to his career in Washington. He’s lifted the Wizards out of the pit created by GunGate and dragged them to two playoff appearances, in spite of a lack of star talent around him. Quickly, let’s review some of what he’s accomplished in his NBA career:
- Three-time All-Star
- Two Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards
- 2nd Team All-Defense in 2015
- Top three in assists every season since 2013-14
- Second-highest assist per game average among active players
Yet, when you listen to a panel of analysts talk about the best point guards in the league, they always talk about guys like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, and Damian Lillard. You rarely hear them even discuss John Wall, even though he’s putting together one of the best seasons of his career. Worse yet, he isn’t even getting much attention from fans nationwide, as the first few rounds of fan balloting can attest.
So why aren’t people giving Wall the same respect as other top guards in the league? Here are a few reasons:
Poor endorsement deals
John Wall turned heads when he decided to sign a shoe deal with Reebok coming out of college. He was expected to come in and revive a brand that had struggled to maintain relevance after Allen Iverson’s prime years with the company. However, a combination of the Wizards’ poor play in Wall’s early years and some very uninspiring shoe designs forced both sides to seek a new direction.
In 2013, Reebok restructured their basketball shoe business and shuffled Wall off to their parent company, Adidas. Wall wound up getting two more signature shoes with the company, but failed to get the same recognition as other Adidas endorsers like Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, and later James Harden, who signed a $200 million deal with Adidas in 2015. When Wall failed to get a new deal similar to Harden’s when his shoe deal came up, he broke ties with Adidas and hasn’t signed a new deal since.
On top of that, Wall hasn’t gotten many endorsement deals outside of the sports realm. You don’t see him selling Pepsi like Kyrie Irving, or on a bunch of State Farm commercials like Chris Paul and Damian Lillard. Visibility matters when it comes to getting recognition on a national stage, and Wall simply hasn’t gotten those opportunities.
Lack of national exposure
The Wizards are not one of the prestige franchises in the area or in the NBA. They’re 27th in attendance this season and in the bottom-half of the league in national TV appearances. Even when Wall is playing well, it’s hard for him to get the same recognition as players on teams that have a more established track record of success and a larger fan base.
When the Wizards do get shots on the national stage, they’re often paired against the elite teams of the league to ensure the game still gets good ratings. As a result, Wall is often put in the spotlight against teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers, which makes it more difficult for him to make a good impression on big stages.
This isn’t to say that Wall has always been perfect. He has his flaws, just like everyone else. The difference is, other players get bigger platforms to show off when they’re having great games and more opportunities to cover up when they’re having poor ones. Hopefully now that the Wizards are starting to get some more attention for their recent success people will start to realize what they’ve been missing.