SLAM Top 50: John Wall, No. 12

The year is 1990.

The Detroit Pistons had just become the third franchise in NBA history to win back-to-back Championships by defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, cementing the bruising legacy of the Bad Boys.

Spider, Worm and Zeke were household names. For those not in the know (and if you’re reading SLAM, then why the hell are you not initiated?), that’s John Salley and Hall of Famers Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas. With the help of Vinne Johnson, Rick Mahorn, fellow HOFers Joe Dumars and the late great Chuck Daly and, of course, the L’s all-time villain Bill Laimbeer, the Boys bodied Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Co. in five games.

Together, Detroit’s finest made the NBA rough and rugged and in yo muthaf—ckin’ face.

It was ugly (read: Laimbeer threw elbows, hips and hard fouls out like candy on Halloween), but it was a thing of beauty because they were led by Zeke, a maestro with the rock, who razzled, dazzled and put the Pistons on his back for the historic repeat.

But we’ll come back to that later.

The year 1990 was also the genesis that led to the golden era of hip-hop. Albums like Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out, The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better and Eric B & Rakim’s Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em were dominating the airwaves and keeping bodies rockin’ in clubs, school dances, impromptu get-togethers and basement and block parties nationwide.

The year is also immensely significant to Washington Wizards fans for two seemingly innocuous reasons, at the time anyway. Brand Nubian’s seminal hit single “Slow Down,” with its clutch sample of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’s “What I Am,” was on repeat and John Wall was born on September 6 to Frances Pulley and John Carroll Wall Sr in Raleigh, NC.

Slow down

Slow, slow down

What I am, what I am

Fast forward 20 years and Wall, the second coming, the savior, the Kentucky whirling dervish, the “did I just see that” YouTube ballin’ sensation, was selected first by the Wiz in the 2010 NBA Draft.

And just as promised, during his rookie campaign, Wall astonished. He showed and proved.

That first year stat line was a breath of fresh air for Washingtonians: 16.4 ppg, 8.3 apg and 1.8 steals per.

And the awards rolled in, too. Wall took home the 2011 Rookie Game MVP, was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month from January to April, was named to the All-Rookie First-Team and lost out to the previous year’s No. 1 pick Blake Griffin for the Rookie of the Year trophy.

Wall amazed, he broke ankles.

But he was too damn fast.

For defenders? Sure.

But here’s the rub: He was too damn fast for his teammates, too. And let’s just say it for the umpteenth time: He was too damn fast for his own good.

Slow down

You livin foul

And it ain’t yo style

Wall likely wasn’t aware of Brand Nubian’s prophetic words, but his detractors did. Every analyst with two cents, one cent and half a cent echoed the same criticism, despite his steady improvement over the last five years: Wall needed to slow down.

To be more specific, he needed to slow the game down, lead his team by getting into sets quicker, direct the show. Run it like the Point God Zeke did with the Pistons during their dominant run.

Shine and distribute. Murder the interior defense. Get to the rim and finger roll it, slam it, jam it down their throats.

Floor General the break like Patton.

Orchestrate the 24-second shot clock like the masterful musical engineering of Bach’s “Art of Fugue.”

Step up more often and with kill at will like the assassination of the Toronto Raptors in last year’s playoffs for 17 points, 12.5 assists and 4 boards per contest.

Do that, Wall, and you won’t have to tell the media, “I probably won’t make the 2016 Olympic Team.”

Do that, and everyone will truly forget and forgive the Dougie dancing fiasco.

Do that, and you’ll take that next step from great to elite, star to superstar, player to MVP candidate.

It’s there, just like Ragu. It’s definitely there.

But you gotta stir it up. You have to become the leader everyone in the DMV knows you can be.

The dimes are already on point. You serve dishes like Wolfgang.

But you need to nail those midrange J’s with better efficiency. Get that 3-point FG percentage up. Cut down on the turnovers.

You went from 47 to 25 to 38 to 24 to 18 and now #12 on this list.

Damn it’s a shame you’re the mighty queen of vials

With a wide-eyed look and a rotten-toothed smile

Used to walk with a swagger, now you simply stagger

From one spot on to the next spot on to the next spot on to the next

Call me crazy, but you got a lock on the Top 10 for next year. No one in the L can slow you down or stop the reign.

So go get that top spot…with the quickness.


SLAM Top 50 Players 2015
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Rajon Rondo Kings PG 14
49 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks SF 8
48 Rudy Gobert Jazz C 10
47 Al Jefferson Hornets C 9
46 DeMar DeRozan Raptors SG 7
45 Goran Dragic Heat PG 13
44 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 11
43 Jeff Teague Hawks PG 12
42 Bradley Beal Wizards SG 6
41 Joakim Noah Bulls C 8
40 Eric Bledsoe Suns PG 11
39 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
38 Andrew Wiggins T-Wolves SF 7
37 Kyle Lowry Raptors PG 9
36 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 10
35 Gordon Hayward Jazz SF 6
34 Pau Gasol Bulls PF 9
33 Paul Millsap Hawks PF 8
32 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 8
31 Andre Drummond Pistons C 7
30 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 7
29 Draymond Green Warriors PF 6
28 Kobe Bryant Lakers SG 5
27 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 4
26 DeAndre Jordan Clippers C 6
25 Tim Duncan Spurs C 5
24 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 7
23 Al Horford Hawks C 4
22 Paul George Pacers SF 5
21 Chris Bosh Heat PF 5
20 Kevin Love Cavs PF 4
19 Dwight Howard Rockets C 3
18 Jimmy Butler Bulls SG 3
17 Klay Thompson Warriors SG 2
16 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 6
15 Kyrie Irving Cavs PG 5
14 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 2
13 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 4
12 John Wall Wizards PG 4

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.