From Criminal with No Future to an NBA Star with a Bright One

Ryan Quill


MIDDLEBORO, MA –  As a society, we hear about inspiring, turn-around stories every single day. It’s also a very common theme in sports as a whole. But this is no ordinary story. This is the story of Washington Wizards star point guard John Wall, and how he completely proved everyone wrong and changed his life.

Wall grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina with his mother, sister, half-sister and a father who was in-and-out of prison. Growing up, many told him that he was just like his father. This wasn’t a good compliment for Wall, as his dad was charged with second-degree murder eight years before Wall’s birth, and charged with armed robbery when Wall was a baby. He could only visit his dad in prison, and spent his first nine years of his life without a stable father figure. His dad was released a month early from prison after being diagnosed with liver cancer, and passed away a short time later while on vacation with the family.

In the years following his father’s death, John was full of anger and rage towards his life and his current situation in life itself. Ever since he was a young kid, Wall always starred on the court, but off it was a different story. He had the nickname Crazy J and would seem to get in trouble every day. He would get into fights at the local boys and girls club, into fights at middle school, kicked out of basketball camps and would even get worse as he got older. At the age of 13, John and his friends would steal cars and break their car windows and drive them around the neighborhood. During late night altercations, on two occasions,he had bullets fired at him and even fired back one of these times.

Just as everyone thought John would be just another athletic kid who couldn’t stay off the streets, he suddenly changed. John attributes the bulk of this change to his mother, who would always tell him, “Don’t be like your father, you’re better than that John.” Even though he wanted to be better, his reputation followed him and he had to change that.

As a sophomore, John was cut from his basketball team even though he was one of the best underclassmen in the country. The coach of the team decided to take the safe route and play one of his seniors instead, whom he knew wouldn’t cause him trouble like he thought Wall would. Instead of lashing out at his dismissal from the high school team, he decided to transfer to Word of God Christian Academy. Upon his arrival, his coach asked him, “John, why are you not getting recruited by Duke and Carolina?” John said he wasn’t sure, which his coach replied, “You’re not getting recruited by them because you’re an ass.” After this conservation, Wall put his head down and worked to create a new image for himself, an image of a great teammate and a hard worker.

All of this hard work paid off for John, as the summer after his sophomore year, he got invited to compete at the Reebok All-American Camp, where he turned heads and made a name for himself with his incredible athleticism and amazing court vision. John went from being a troubled kid who people weren’t sure would end up in prison, on the streets or even dead, to the kid getting recruited by every college in the country.

In his college recruiting process, there was one team that stood out, or one coach for that matter. Coach John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers intrigued Wall with Calipari’s offensive style of dribbling-and-driving, and took the NCAA by storm as the Tigers made it all the way to the national championship led by point guard Derrick Rose before losing to Kansas. When it came time for Wall to decide where he would take his talents, he chose to follow Coach Calipari to his new head coaching job at the University of Kentucky.

Just as everyone thought John had turned his life around, his troubles reared its ugly head again. In his senior year, Wall was arrested and charged with breaking and entering. This may seem as another step back and John falling back into his old ways, but that wasn’t the case. The truth was, is that he broke into an abandoned house to spend some alone time with a girl and was caught by the police. Over time, these charges were eventually dropped and gave Wall a reason to prove himself yet again.

As many top recruit’s John’s age were hanging out with friends or working on their game, Wall enrolled at the University of Kentucky as a sort’ve trial run. He finished the summer with a perfect 4.0 GPA and impressed many teachers with his hard work, determination and kind personality.

In John’s one season at Kentucky, he averaged 17 points per game with 2 steals per game and 6.5 assists per game. He then went first overall in the 2010 NBA Draft and was selected by the Washington Wizards. Wall soon became one of the faces of Reebok and signed an endorsement deal with them a short period of time after the draft. In his rookie season, Wall averaged 16 points per game with 8 assists to go along as well. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and earned NBA All-Rookie 1st Team.

John Wall’s breakout season came in 2015-16, as he put up career numbers in several categories. He  averaged 23 points per game, 11 assists per game and 2 steals per game as he earned his second consecutive all-star honors. Last season he led the Wizards to their first division title in 38 years and made it all the way to game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals where they lost to the Boston Celtics. Wall’s averages have gone down this season, and with his recent left knee surgery, he will be out six to eight weeks. But that won’t stop his Wizards, as they have won four out of six without him as they await his return for the postseason.

John Wall’s life story just proves that if you work hard enough, you can obtain anything and prove your doubters wrong, no matter how bad it gets.