John Wall only met professional basketball players in his dreams growing up in Raleigh. Now the North Carolina-bred point guard, and Washington Wizards star, is doing what he can to bring the NBA a bit closer to kids in the two areas he represents.
Partnering with the Boys & Girls clubs of Greater Washington, Wall met and hung out with some 250 children at the Richard England Clubhouse in the District’s Northeast section on Saturday afternoon. Those at the first annual “Back 2 School Squad” received customized backpacks from the John Wall Family Foundation and t-shirts courtesy of Adidas, Wall’s shoe sponsor. Pencils, composition books and an autographed picture of the Wizards number two rounded out the swag.
“I wish I would have had an opportunity to meet an NBA player, someone you probably look up to when I was growing up,” said Wall, who attended a similar event in Raleigh on Friday. “To teach me some something and tell me certain things, give me motivation at a young age. Just try to be a better person.
“This is a blessing to have that opportunity, to be a professional athlete, to come back to different communities where I’m from and where I’m playing basketball professionally and give back.”
The $80 million, five-year contract Wall signed in 2013 kicks in this coming season. In other words, he has the means to make a donation, put his name on a foundation, make a token appearance and call it a day. As someone who has “been in the same situation, the same shoes as a lot of these kids, Wall wanted to do more.
“The main thing is…being here in person instead of just setting up an event and not coming. [It] let’s the kids know you care about them, you support them,” said Wall, whose mother worked multiple jobs to care for the family after his father passed from liver cancer in 1999. “You definitely want to see them come from tough time and try to change their lives and become better for themselves and their family.
“I was blessed and lucky to have the opportunity to do that. All I tried to do is give them motivation, to a lot of young kids that have probably been through the same thing I’ve been through.”
The Wizards’ point guard posed for pictures and passed on knowledge during the two-hour event. He admits school – the studying and homework part – wasn’t always his bag. Wall also acknowledged he might not be in the NBA today if his mother hadn’t given up an ultimatum, one he took seriously.
“My first two years in high school, I really didn’t do too much school work,” he said. “I liked school, I just didn’t do too much school work. I thought you just go to college. My mom taught me if you don’t do school work, you can’t play basketball. That’s the main thing I want to instill in these kids. Education comes before anything.”