Nothing has come easy for John Wall and the Wizards this season. For starters, Wall has missed significant time with a knee injury, returning to the lineup just as the Wizards make their final push toward the playoffs. As it stands, the Wizards are the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, which means they would play the Toronto Raptors in the first round. On all accounts, that record and playoff placement is a disappointment for a Washington team that was one game away from the conference finals last season and brought their entire core back.
But this season hasn't gone as planned, with reports of internal strife leaking out, from Marcin Gortat tweeting about great team wins while Wall was out to Wall speaking publicly about the team issues in awkward ESPN interviews.
Despite the turmoil, Wall hasn't let the ups and downs of the season stop him from giving back to his community and keeping the bigger picture in mind. For the third straight year, Wall and his foundation hooked up some local Washington D.C. teenagers with the opportunity to get fitted in Sean John custom tuxedos for prom this year. In addition to witnessing lucky high schoolers get hooked up for prom, we were able to speak to the eight-year NBA vet about his foundation and how the Wizards are feeling going into the playoffs after such a turbulent regular season.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
How are you feeling from a basketball standpoint?
I feel great. Just taking time to get my legs underneath me. Just doing everything to try and keep my leg healthy. Just try and be as healthy as I can to help this team make a playoff push.
Do you think you guys can rely on past playoff success over momentum at this point in the season?
Nah, I wouldn't say that at all. Momentum is a whole lot in the game of basketball. People dwell on momentum, but that really does matter. I'm just trying to do the right thing, get it right, get us playing with that same type of edge and win games.
Has the adversity of this season helped you guys to prepare for the playoffs?
Yeah, I think so, but at the end of the day you gotta compete and have fun or else it ain't going to mean nothing. We understand what's going on, what it takes. We been through damn near everything you can go through, so we trying to figure it out.
Any one particular thing you're looking to work on going into the playoffs?
Nah, just trying to stay healthy, that's it. Other than that, if I'm healthy, I'm not really fazed by anything else. That's my biggest key is just trying to stay healthy, play the right way, and get these guys to having fun again. We're not having fun right now and I think you can see that on our faces at times.
Do you think that'll change in the playoffs since it's that bunker mentality in the playoffs?
It's just about, we know who we are as a team, we know when we play well is when we play well together. We play team basketball, we move the ball, guys are making extra passes. It makes it a lot of fun. We know what it takes. We're not one of those teams that can turn it on and off, and that's why we've had these droughts.
What would you say is the biggest thing you've learned from running the John Wall Foundation throughout the years?
The biggest thing is just, giving back, having the opportunity to be in the position I am to do it, I do it because I want to and I care, there's people who've been in the position I've been in before, being less fortunate, stuff like that.
With the prom thing you're doing—what brought that together and how important is this particular thing to you?
It's just a great opportunity for kids that wanna go to prom, who never get the opportunity to do it, I'm in a position where I can give the kids the opportunity to go to prom, probably the first time or the last time they get to enjoy themselves.
A post shared by John Wall Family Foundation (@jwfamilyfoundation) on Apr 6, 2018 at 11:30am PDT
How important do you think the precedent is for younger NBA players? A lot of NBA players have foundations but I think you, LeBron James, set the tone for that.
If you wanna do it and you care for it, that's something you gotta do. It's something I can do for years and just get bigger and bigger and better every year, that's what I'm trying to do, improve lives every year. Be better. There's a lot of stuff I'm doing, been doing, wish I had—now I have the opportunity to help people.
What kind of future plans do you have for the foundation?
Nothing yet. I mean, just trying to do improve every year. It's gonna be these guys' first times in New York, they get to see Times Square, they get to see New York. Instead of just doing it in DC and being around they'll see something different, be in New York and have fun, see something different.
How important do you think giving back is to the NBA in general? I know a lot of people look at the NBA as kind of setting the tone for that as far as sports go.
What we're doing with our foundation is rewarding kids that do the right thing. Doing their best to stay out of trouble and do some positive things. When I do my type of things I kind of let the community decide who they feel is the best one, I don't have the opportunity to go out and see and be around those guys 365 days—I get at least a day or two or a weekend to see what these guys are like, people in the community do a great job of picking people they feel like are deserving of it, not just because of who they are, not because of what they have, I just try to help them motivate.
How much support have you gotten from the D.C. community with everything you've done?
It's great man, it's been amazing, I can't ask for nothing better. You always gotta do the right thing, you never know who's watching. These kids are doing the right thing not knowing they could go to prom, get fitted for—have the opportunity to meet John Wall, they don't know, they just doing it and doing the right thing. Just do the right thing. Doesn't matter about any NBA player. I think they're really enjoying it and having fun.
How big of a thing does Sean John factor into this, the kids are gonna show up, get to stunt a little bit?
It's fun, they definitely gonna enjoy it. Why not get the opportunity to go to prom, get the opportunity to wear a Sean John suit that's fitted, people wanna be seen, it's definitely gonna be on my page, it's not about me trying to take the spotlight, I'm just so excited for these guys.