The Washington Wizards are playing the Houston Rockets tonight at 8 p.m. ET in what should be expected to be an emotional game for both sides.
So before we root for Bradley Beal and the gang to run the tables on John Wall and his new team, let’s take one more look at the class Wall showed during his final moments in Washington. The piece was originally written last month, but we just want to share it again. We hope you enjoy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
That’s how John Wall ended his conversation with Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard — right after learning that his time in the nation’s capital was coming to an end.
Wall went to the Wizards’ practice facility Thursday morning to say goodbye to the people who helped him grow up. Nobody envisioned his career with the Wizards ending this way, with Wall cleaning his locker room and putting on another team’s jersey — but it didn’t stop Wall from accepting the reality.
The new Houston Rockets point guard hugged Sheppard and his former teammates. Any hard feelings that existed had been washed away by memories.
“I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him,” Ish Smith said on Friday during a call with the media.
“We’ll see each other again,” Sheppard said. “We can’t wait to give him the standing ovation he deserves.”
Wall’s goodbye, believe it or not, was a bit unusual.
It’s rare that players return to the practice facility after they get traded.
“It speaks to who he is as a person,” Bradley Beal said. “I haven’t seen very many players do that.”
The relationship between Wall, Beal, and the Wizards wasn’t perfect. But the same is true for any relationship. Perfection isn’t needed to have a long-lasting, successful relationship. Watching it end, however, is a different story, and Wall wanted to make sure he could depart the same way he arrived — with class.
“It’s tough,” Beal said on Friday, trying not to get emotional. “He’s a brother. That relationship was so strong, but it’s crazy because so many people tried to break us apart. It was the total opposite of the rumors or the noise. That’s a brotherhood that will never be thrown away.”
Wall’s trade shocked many within the organization, including Smith, who was watching a show at 11 p.m. — and got a phone call from his mom.
“She called me and my aunt on three-way,” Smith said. “She’s like — ‘you didn’t hear?’ And I’m like, ‘I didn’t hear what, mom?’ So you know my heart starts beating fast because every time she calls me like this it means I’m getting traded,” he said, jokingly.
But the shock didn’t come from the fact that a trade was completed.
Many within the organization expected it to occur. Wall had grown frustrated with the franchise and the Wizards found themselves in a fragile situation. Ultimately, they decided that Russell Westbrook, a former MVP and nine-time All-NBA player, was a better option for the team, and would help convince Beal to remain a part of the future.
The shock, though, arrived when the deal actually happened.
It’s one thing to flirt with a trade partner, but it’s another to say “we have a deal.”
Sheppard acknowledged that it was among the most difficult decisions he’s made in 20-plus years. Westbrook might be a safer option than Wall, who hasn’t played a game in two years, but it’s hard to envision Westbrook ever reaching the level of popularity and admiration Wall had in the DMV. He was embraced by the community — and he gave the love right back.
The rumors would have stopped many from showing their face publicly, but Wall participated in a Thanksgiving giveaway during his last official public appearance in Washington, D.C. As reporters peppered him with questions about his future, Wall remained focused on completing the efforts that will ultimately shape his legacy — by assisting others.
Wall gave away 1,000 hot meals and 150 grocery gift cards to families in need.
It was just another philanthropic opportunity for Wall — the many of which he undertook during the pandemic, including a rent-relief program he spearheaded at the height of the crisis.
As one of the most scrutinized players in basketball — the Wizards and the D.C. community know what they had in Wall.
And if they need a reminder, they can remember how he left.