Few things in the NBA world are more exciting than watching John Wall perplex defenders in the worst way possible with a full-sprint spin. It's incredibly effective and hedonistic to watch. After Wall puts his man through misery for the entertainment of the masses, one is tempted to console the victim, Good Will Hunting style. It's not your fault. John Wall is just a force of nature. Oh, and he might do it again.
More than just the spin, Wall unleashed every dance move in his arsenal en route to leading the Wizards over the Raptors in Game 2 of their first round match-up. In the first game of the series, Wall, along with his House of Guards co-star Bradley Beal, struggled, and in turn, the entire team did. They won in overtime regardless. In Game 2, Wall absolutely tore into everything and everyone put in front of him. Along with Beal, he turned what seemed to be an inspired Raptors win early into a Wizards rout by the third.
It was the performance of a franchise superstar -- a mature reading of the defense and the intelligence and technique to exploit it. It was the type of game ESPN's Colin Cowherd bellows time and time again that John Wall can't muster:
When he broke into the league I think it was his first home game in the NBA, he did this moronic 30-second Dougie, which by the way I've had two NBA writers tell me members of his own team were embarrassed about it. [...] So I went out and said that's all I need to know about John Wall. Great talent, but needs to grow up [...] and I said, You look at his family and you look his childhood, through no fault of his own, there's a lot of chaos there, I think he's gonna be a dynamic talent, I don't think he's gonna be a great leader."
Cowherd went on to say "...And through no fault of his [John Wall's] own, I think he's going to be a great talent, but boy he had a rough childhood and I don't know if I'm building my franchise around him." He finished by comparing Wall to the recently-retired Allen Iverson while wailing about Wall's supposed mental weaknesses and failed childhood even more.
Cowherd is not a psychologist, nor is he family or friends with John Wall. There's nothing that connects Cowherd to Wall beyond the sport of basketball. He has no license to be this personally critical, nor further insight into Wall's life other than the surface tidbits about his childhood and a dance. But has chosen to demonize Wall anyway. John Wall frankly doesn't need to appease Colin Cowherd because Colin Cowherd doesn't matter in the grand scheme.
Here's why. Leadership isn't defined in childhood, as Cowherd seems to think. A real leader is defined by his ability to inspire and by the authority that those who believe grant him. Last night it was clear that the Wizards, both the franchise and the players individually, follow Wall. In spite of what the world threw at him and the inconsistencies that the 24-year-old sometimes stumbles through, Wall is also capable of performing like a top point guard in the National Basketball Association.
He's terrifying when he's on form and the Raptors learned that the hard way. And that fun side of him that Cowherd thinks makes him immature, that youthful arrogance, is what makes watching him so enjoyable. Doubt him if you want, but you'll be proven wrong in the most embarrassing way possible.
A hilarious instance in the fourth quarter managed to exemplify the terror Wall causes and the confidence he exudes.
With more than just a minute left in the game, with the Raptors losing by 11 points, Wall received a return pass from Paul Pierce right below center court after using him as an outlet. Patrick Patterson ran up to him: Legs bent, shorts pulled up and all. Then an epiphany dawned on him and he cautiously walked back and stationed himself right under the three-point line. It was as if Patterson realized that he had voluntarily put himself in danger and was thoroughly embarrassed by it. Wall then walked up to him and buried a three right in his face. Do it or do not do it. You will regret both.
It was an exclamation point on a performance that saw him attack the rim in all of his athletic greatness, use the space given to him by the Raptors intelligently and defend staunchly. One of course can't forget that he erased Lou Williams from the annals of history with a sensational block before putting him in a washing machine on his way to an And-1 at the other end.
Play off him and he abuses you with his passing. Play him close and he turns you into a newborn calf on ice.
He finished the game with 26 points and 17 assists (one less than his career high). More astounding than his stat line is the fact that the quicksilver guard played 40 minutes with an injured shoulder. The athletic tape on his right shoulder was visible throughout the game. He even admitted that it hurt like hell, but that the pain wouldn't be able to stop him.
Wall out-fought, out-thought and downright outplayed his counterparts last night. The rest of the Wizards followed suit: Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat all mirrored Wall with impressive performances. Doubted, despaired and written off, yet here they are in the playoffs, running through the six with all their woes and threatening to sweep the Raptors.
Beal summed up Wall's and the Wizard's situation perfectly when he brazenly stated at halftime: "They think that we're some punks, they think they can push us around ... but we're not rolling."
It's asinine that with all of the circumstances Wall has overcome, some would rather admonish his achievements than celebrate them. Here is a young man who beat the odds, an athlete that can cause defenders to sweat profusely with fear when at full form.
Wall's performance was a joyous occasion made that much more satisfying knowing that Cowherd was probably watching.