WASHINGTON D.C. - With the amount of salt coming from John Wall, the Washington Wizards star sounds like he's fixing to season a steak.
Wall began the preseason cooking up a complaint about the ongoing arms race in the NBA. Posting a photo of himself and backcourt mate Bradley Beal on Instagram, Wall sardonically asked which NBA superstar would be next to join a super team. The eighth-year pro later deleted the caption, but not before revealing his current state of mind. Despite receiving a max-contract extension this summer for $170 million, Wall isn't content sitting back and getting fat on his riches. Instead, he's hangry - hungry for a ring and angered by his team's inability to win one. For all the worldly talents he possesses, a major championship is a prize that has evaded Wall since he began playing basketball.
As a high school senior, the Raleigh native led his team to the 2009 North Carolina Class 1A championship game. The trophy was within reach until Wall committed a turnover in the final seconds that led to a last-second defeat. (The video should probably come with a graphic warning:
Wall picked up his pride and moved to the University of Kentucky in the fall, teaming up with the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson. The talent-laden Wildcats cruised to a 32-2 campaign, earning a top seed in the NCAA tournament. After notching double-digit wins in each of the first three rounds, a team that featured five first-round picks was stunned by upstart West Virginia in the East Regionals.
"We wanted to make it as far as we wanted to and that was the championship," said Wall. "We got it cut short."
Wall entered the NBA Draft in June and was chosen by the Wizards with the first overall pick. Washington rolled out a red carpet for the introductory press conference with the mayor declaring June 25 as John Wall Day. Difficult days followed for the new franchise player, winning just 72 games over the next three years - a mark Golden State surpassed in each of the past three seasons. While the highs of playing in D.C. haven't matched those of the Oakland-based Warriors, Wall has helped return a sense of pride to the Wizards, restoring respectability after decades of dormancy.
After being lottery-bound for five consecutive years (2009-13), the Wizards have reached the postseason in three of the past four. In a long and brutal run of mediocrity, Washington is coming off its best season since an appearance in the 1979 NBA Finals, winning 49 games, finishing fourth in the East and pushing the Boston Celtics to the limit in the conference semifinals.
Like many of his teammates, Wall had a career year, netting highs in points per game (23.1) and assists (10.7), while leading the league in steals (2.0) and blocked shots by a point guards (49). As the 2017-18 season nears kickoff, Wall is entering the prime of his career as the centerpiece of a young, talented nucleus that has accumulated years of on-court experience - a trait freshly-assembled superteams cannot replicate. Regardless of the firepower the Cavaliers and Celtics added in offseason, the Wizards will continue to remain a viable contender in the Eastern Conference.
So why, when surrounded by as much talent as he's ever been, is the Wall-Star venting on social media about his competition?
He's hangry for a title. And for Washington fans, that's a good thing.