When the Washington Wizards selected John Wall with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Twitter was still coming into its own. And even though we didn't exactly know how to get the most out of the social media site, something some random basketball fan tweeted that night has stuck with me ever since: "John Wall is the next Allen Iverson."
Being fortunate enough to grow up during the Iverson era in Philadelphia with my father owning season tickets, I laughed at that statement. Sure, both players were blazing fast, played point guard in college and signed sneaker deals with Reebok almost the second they turned pro, but John Wall's game was nothing like AI's.
For starters, Wall's 6-foot-4, towering over Iverson's tiny what-we-all-know-was-shorter-than-6-foot frame. While both beat many a defender with quickness and had shattered dozens of ankles with wicked crossovers, Wall had an element of raw power to his drives that Iverson lacked but made up for with reckless abandon. Log onto YouTube, Iverson used to drive into people while miraculously flipping the ball up, spinning it off the backboard and in. Wall either catapults over rim protectors or simply drives right through them.
But forget on the court, nobody in the history of basketball will ever affect American pop culture the way Allen Iverson did. I wouldn't be a contributing writer to SLAM Magazine today without Iverson because there wouldn't have even been a SLAM Magazine without Allen Iverson. David Stern basically imposed the NBA's dress code to stop AI from wearing XXXL Big O jerseys to Buxers Day games.
Yet at the same time, Iverson's lasting legacy to the casual NBA fan was that he was the hottest ticket in the NBA for much of his prime, even though Kobe and Shaq were probably 1a. and 1b. for best player in the league at the time. This might sound foolish now, but at this rate, with his improved play and the consistent injuries to Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose, that's the level Wall is racing towards despite LeBron James and Kevin Durant holding down the MVP headlines.
This season, Wall's averaging 19.8 points, 8.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 36.8 minutes per game. He's ridiculously athletic and now the reigning Slam Dunk Champion. If he doesn't make 1st Team All-NBA Defensive Team, it'll be a bigger joke than Derek Jeter winning a gold glove in 2010. Wall's averaging 2.0 steals per game — which is actually fourth in the league behind Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and Ricky Rubio — but he's become one of the most irritating perimeter defenders in the game. Watch the last two minutes of the Wizard's 3OT win in Toronto on Thursday night. Wall's defense — a strip steal and "verticality" — turned the game from Toronto's ball in a 127-127 lock into a 131-127 lead for Washington in a span of 22 seconds.
Oh, and here's his game-saving block at the end of the first overtime:
That step over Lowry naturally got me thinking about Iverson again. It might just be a coincidence that Wall will be in the building as Iverson's number is deservedly retired. It might not. But John Wall has arrived and his reign as the best point guard in the NBA is just around the corner. Expect an enormous Sixers loss tonight.
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— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) February 28, 2014