This article appears in the June 28 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Ever since John Wall, the 6’4″ action hero from Kentucky, first announced he was headed to the association, NBA scouts, GMs and even other prospects have raved about him. It’s as if they were all foaming from the same mouth. We get it: He’s going to be the top pick. But what haven’t we been told about the guy who will be strutting across the stage on draft night to grab a No. 1 jersey and a handshake with David Stern? Before he becomes a 19-year-old franchise saver, we asked Wall to tell us. — ELENA BERGERON
A lot of people tried to convince me not to play basketball. In eighth grade I was actually better in football. I played running back, wide receiver and safety — just like Allen Iverson. And you don’t understand how little I was, maybe 5’8″ in ninth grade. But my mom took it out of my hands. She said football was too dangerous.
I had a real bad attitude after my dad passed of liver cancer. I was 9, and we were really close. I was acting out, and my mom said I’d have to change my attitude or else she wouldn’t let me play. So I did. I also promised my dad I’d get my college degree — be the first one in my family. I will. I had a 3.5 GPA last semester, and math is my favorite subject.
Most people don’t know I have a weird pregame meal. I’m picky, so all I eat are grapes and a hamburger with nothing on it. I get the meat, the bun, that’s it. When I was at Kentucky we had a cook who would make them for us, so I’ll figure something out when I get to my new city. It’s kinda got to be a specialty burger, though, because I’m trying not to eat too much fast food. But I gotta have my burger or I’ll get mad.
John Wall is ready to take the NBA by storm.
Some people call me Jimmy. People at my high school started calling me that one day. Now I have Great Wall — I like that one a lot. I respond to all of them but most people call me J-Wall, and some call me Dice. That’s what my homeboys call me. I got some nicknames.
I looked up to Magic Johnson a lot. He was a tall point guard who found his teammates and had a good time. It seemed like his enjoying the game made it easier for everybody. I remember Game 4 of the ’87 Finals — that one where he hit the shot against the Celtics — and that All-Star Game in 1992 when he hit those threes. That should tell you all you need to know about me as a point guard: I like the ball and I like to hit big shots. I got it from Magic.
I can call LeBron anytime. After the South Carolina game, when people said I wasn’t listening to Coach Cal, I felt frustrated and I was getting down. Bron told me that I don’t have to go out there and live up to the hype. All I have to do is just enjoy my moment and have fun.
Lil Wayne and Drake are my favorites right now. Drake’s a big UK fan. He came to a lot of our games, so I’ll get in trouble if I don’t say him. On his new album I like “Light Up” and “Find Your Love.” I don’t have a love, though, so I don’t know about that, and I don’t have the album, either. I have the bootleg.
When I met with the Wizards staff in Chicago they told me that I’d still have the ball in my hands. Gil Arenas would be the 2-guard. They said that’s pretty much a guarantee, but we’ll see how everything works from there.
My mom and my sisters, Cierra and Tanya, are probably going to sit with me at the draft. But oh no, they’re not gonna stay with me once I’m in the pros! I’m buying them a house back in North Carolina. My brother Ty Williams, he’s living with me. He’s like my best friend, so I call him my brother.
Elena Bergeron is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine.