On Oct. 28, 2010, John Wall officially transferred to a new school, leaving behind his best friends, popularity and expectations for success.
Away from all of the familiarity, Wall walked into the dingy classroom maintaining some excitement. Before even finding his seat, Wall was smacked in the face by a paper airplane, undoubtedly folded and thrown by either Andray Blatche or JaVale McGee, whom he’d seen snickering in the corner. Kirk Hinrich shushed in their direction, but to no avail. The defeated teacher, Flip Saunders, had lost control of the classroom. It was only a matter of time before he took the fall from an oblivious superintendent.
A few months later, a banged-up Wall walked into a competition alongside his teammates in Miami. Looking across from him was LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Wall and Co. (15-42) stood no chance against the super team (43-16).
From day one – literally – Wall has been alone or forced to work with people who had no business being on the court. He watched as superstars teamed up with hopes of winning a championship as the Washington Wizards’ management looked for veteran players, usually ones running on empty, to wash the nasty taste of embarrassment the team had on its palate.
As players fled their situations (often ones similar to the circumstances Wall was/is in), Wall was asked to make the most out of his. “Here’s a 30-something injury-prone player. Now go make him worthy of the mid-level exception, which we’ll regrettably agree to.”
Wall sat in the classroom amongst commotion as Blake Griffin got Chris Paul, Stephen Curry got Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams got Joe Johnson/Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett, DeMar DeRozan got Kyle Lowry, Kobe Bryant got Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, Curry and Klay Thompson got Andre Iguodala, Wade got Goran Dragic, Toronto’s backcourt got Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis got Wall’s best friend, DeMarcus Cousins.
And this summer, Wall sat – pleading for the Wizards to do something – and watched as Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joined forces. He saw Kyrie Irving team up with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. He played against James Harden and Paul at a Pro-Am game. He saw Wade and LeBron sip wine together, thinking about the future.
And once again, he was alone.
"It's kind of like when you start school and you walk into the classroom and you're not quite sure who your classmates are and when you walk in there and one of your best friends is in there, you're like: `Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun. It's going to be a good class,’” LeBron told the media after learning about Wade’s signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
To the tune of insanity, the Wizards’ formula did not change this off-season.
Wall’s used to getting the A.J. Prices, Martell Websters, Alan Andersons, Eric Maynors and Rasual Butlers of the world. They might look a little different, but if you squint hard – actually, it might not take much effort – you’ll see that Jodie Meeks, Mike Scott and Tim Frazier are the same classmates Wall’s been with for almost eight years. Old? Check. Not that much upside? Check. Prone to injury and looking to revive their careers while clinging onto Wall’s back? Check.
The Instagram photo Wall shared Thursday was just as relevant in 2010 as it is today. Wall’s used to playing against super teams. He’s never had an All-Star teammate, after all.
He does, though, have Bradley Beal – a player that’s on the cusp of becoming an All-Star, but not yet there. And after Beal, Wall can look into the classroom and see the same thing – no teammates that will realistically advance his chances of obtaining his ultimate goal: to win a championship for the nation’s capital. They might not be throwing paper airplanes anymore, but they’re just as dependent.
In less than a month, Wall will be in the same situation he was in not too long ago – looking back at a team that’s stacked with talent and championship aspirations, while he wills Washington to the playoffs and maybe a round after that.
“I wonder who else gonna team up next,” Wall captioned (and eventually edited) the Instagram picture.
To his disappointment, they’ll keep teaming up. It just won’t be in D.C.