Wall Ball (PHOTOS)

by October 18, 2012


by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

With two NBA seasons behind him, John Wall is on the cusp of something—he’s just not sure what.

“I think your third season makes you what you’re going to be made in this League,” the 22-year-old told SLAM earlier this week over the phone. “Are you going to be a good player or are you just going to be average? Are you going to be great or not? That’s my motivation.”

Wall is acutely aware that his legacy is being written as he speaks. He knows that he’s being judged on his improvement, stats and overall play. He knows that, despite currently being sidelined with a knee injury, the next few months might decide the rest of his career.

“This a big year for me,” says Wall, who averaged 16 ppg and 8 apg this past lockout-shortened campaign. “Not just for myself, but for my team also.”

It’s a big year for Wall’s signature sneaker line, too, and the Wizards point guard and Reebok are treating it as such: the company worked closely with Wall on every aspect of the ZigEscape’s design; they filmed a more mature, cartoon-free campaign with Wall in his hometown of Raleigh, NC, this past summer; and they launched his third signature kick, the Wall Season 3: ZigEscape, this week. And while Wall knows the months to come will define his basketball game, he’s already getting comfortable with what he’ll be rocking on his feet.

“It’s a great shoe,” Wall says of the Season 3: ZigEscape, which retails for $114.99. “It’s something that I did, that I wanted. We’re just taking steps every year, just trying to make a different shoe and make it better and better. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

We caught up with Wall to find out everything from major to finite details on the Wall Season 3: ZigEscape, and to talk about how he’s rehabbing and what he’s learning from the bench.

SLAM: Three seasons deep, man. Where does the time go?

John Wall: It’s going by too fast for me.

SLAM: I see that you guys went home to North Carolina this summer to shoot the Reebok Wall Season 3: ZigEscape campaign, right?

JW: Yeah. Yeah, I did that.

SLAM: What was that like? Did you sort of show the Reebok people around and point out places to shoot, or did they already have ideas?

JW: It was kinda great because it was both of our ideas. I mean, I wanted to do something back home as much as possible, and they made it work. It was just a great idea for us, and it turned out the best way possible.

SLAM: Who picked the spots y’all shot the videos at? Were they real places you used to go or places they randomly chose?

JW: Reebok picked [to shoot near] the railroad tracks ’cause it says RALEIGH in the background, but I picked where I used to play at and grew up at. I picked that so I could show back to my community. I thought it was great to go where I used to play basketball at and run up and down the street where everybody could come outside and see me. It was an exciting thing, and it was just great to go back to my community where I grew up at.

SLAM: So the campaign for the ZigEscape 3s seems a little different from your previous ads—less cartoony and a little more real. What do you think about it?

JW: I like it a whole lot. That was the main idea; I wanted to get away from the cartoon thing and just start maturing and growing up. I wanted it to become more realistic, and that’s why we had this great idea. And we put it together.

SLAM: I was gonna say, it just feels more mature. Do you feel that way now? I mean, you’re still young but do you feel like an old head now a little bit?

JW: Yeah, kinda. I’m going on my third year now, so you’re a veteran and you’re learning things. And I’m the longest tenured guy on my team, so I’ve been here the longest.

SLAM: So what do you think about the Season 3: ZigEscape, man?

JW: It’s a great shoe; I like it. It’s something that I did, that I wanted. We’re just taking steps every year, just trying to make a different shoe and make it better and better. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.

SLAM: What are some of the personal touches on it that you inspired?

JW: Basically, I wanted my logo on the front of the tongue, kind of like the baseball stitching. I wanted my signature on the shoe. I just like midcut shoes, and I like the way they had it midcut right around my ankle, giving me a little bit of space but making sure I don’t sprain my ankle.

SLAM: You said recently that you think your third year with Washington is big for you. Well, it’s also year three with Reebok. What do you think about how that relationship is progressing?

JW: Oh, it’s going good. That’s a company that’s been loyal to me from when I was in high school and I went to the camps, and my AAU team was sponsored by Reebok. So, it was an easy mixture for us, and we’re just trying to keep everything going and keep building.

SLAM: Obviously you rock your signature shoe, but I saw you wore the Questions and some other throwbacks last year. You a big fan of the Classics?

JW: Yeah, I love the Classics. I think those are great shoes to walk around in. The Shawn Kemps, the Shaqs, all those types, and Swizz’s got his own shoe. And Allen Iverson was one of my favorite players growing up, so it’s a great opportunity to be able to wear one of his shoes.

SLAM: I know that back in the day you had braids. Do you feel like that was because of AI a little bit?

JW: Yeah, I had braids before and all that. I didn’t get them because of him, but when I had them I thought I was him. I was wearing Iversons and all that back then.

SLAM: And I guess the goal is for kids in 10 years to be rocking your stuff and saying, “Man, these are the John Walls!”

JW: Yeah, that’s the goal.

SLAM: So…you’re on the same team but it’s a new season and a new roster—like you said, you’re the last guy left on your team. How are you feeling about it?

JW: I’m feeling good. I’m very excited, I like the way the guys have been playing. Even though we have a lot of guys we just got, and even though it’s pre-season, there are guys stepping up and competing every night. I like the direction they’re going in with the team, and how my teammates are playing.

SLAM: How hard is it for you to have to watch from the sidelines right now?

JW: It’s real tough for me; I love to play the game of basketball. Whenever I can’t be out there it gets tougher and tougher by the day—but it’s something that happens. We’re bumping and rolling, and you just have to stay positive and keep competing and working out and get myself in the right condition to come back.

SLAM:  I was gonna say, you kind of on your own comeback regimen right now?

JW: Yeah, I’m just going based on how I feel. It’s all about my body and how I feel. That’s one thing you learn about being injured: You can’t rush back; you take your time until you’re fully healthy, and that’s what I’m doing.

SLAM: You were in Brooklyn the other night when your team played the Nets. What did you think of the Barclays Center?

JW: It’s a nice arena, a great arena for them and it’s great that they got a new one. It’s one of the best in the League.

SLAM: You looking forward to playing there, in the new spot, Brooklyn and all that?

JW: Yeah, that’s the best. Whenever there’s a new arena, you want to be in there, and we were actually the first team to play there. That was very exciting for us.

SLAM: The Nets had Deron Williams going for them in that game. When you watch a guy like that, do you try to learn some things, especially since you can’t be out there  right now?

JW: Yeah, you do that whenever you watch anybody play, if you’re not playing against them. But when you’re on the sideline you can see stuff, and I’m just trying to learn the game better and dictate how teams are guarding things. And yeah, DWill’s one of the best guards in the League, so you’re looking at stuff like that.

SLAM: So has there been anything you’ve already seen while sitting on the side that you know you want to incorporate into your game?

JW: Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff I’ve seen. But it’s more stuff that I want to keep to myself so I can try to figure it out and use it against teams when I play.

SLAM: Fair enough. Like you said, man, time is flying by. How would you sum up your first two years in the League?

JW: Average. I mean, my first year was more than average—most rookies don’t have those type of numbers—but my second year was still the same, kind of just still learning. And not having a full season, I didn’t know when to take time off in the summer from my training. This year, I really had the training that I wanted to do.

SLAM: It’s funny. Your numbers are nice, but some people still talk down of you. Don’t you find that kind of weird—there are a lot of haters out there?

JW: No, I love that. That’s the best. So when I start to prove people wrong, I wont have nothing to say. I’m not gonna go out there and talk junk, or talk to the media and give excuse for why I’m not playing good or why my numbers aren’t better. I just let my game do the talking. So it’s not bad to have those type of people; it just motivates you even more.

SLAM: That way you’ll be able to say “I told you so” at the end of it all.

JW: Yeah. My game’s gonna be able to tell them that while they’re watching.