Andrew Horn already had a professional athlete lined up for his Extreme Recess clinic at Verizon Center last week. Mystics center Ta’Shia Phillips had committed to serve as the featured instructor for the event, an afternoon athletic program for kids with physical and developmental disabilities.
So Horn wasn’t looking to add any more guests when he showed up at the Verizon Center practice court to set up for the event. Someone was practicing inside the gym, so Horn waited a few minutes until the balls stopped bouncing. Then John Wall came out.
“I didn’t expect that,” Horn told me this week. “I’m like, ‘What’s up?’”
“How you doing, brother?” Wall responded.
Now, Horn — the executive director of Dreams for Kids DC, which works to empower isolated kids in D.C. — had recently been at a Sports Lawyers Association meeting with Ted Leonsis. He recalled Leonsis praising Wall, saying how willing he was to help, how he had volunteered to go represent the franchise at the NBA draft, and how great a kid he was.
So, figuring what the heck, Horn told Wall that his group was about to host 40 children with disabilities for a basketball game, and invited the point guard to join in.
“I don’t know if I can play, but I’ll definitely come and say what’s up,” Wall replied, and then went into the Wizards locker room to shower.
Horn figured that was that, and he went got ready for the clinic. Phillips, the Mystics center, addressed the kids, giving them a motivational speech and telling them how they could all be pros for the day.
Not long after that, Wall showed up.
“Now they went from having an awesome practice in Verizon Center to literally hanging out with one of the best players in the league,” Horn told me. “It was awesome. It was unbelievable.”
Horn said the guard spent at least 30 or 45 minutes with the group, taking individual pictures with every kid, signing everything that was given to him and chatting with the parents, who were also excited. One of those parents — David Cordell — sent an e-mail about the experience to Ted Leonsis, who passed it along to me. Cordell isn’t much of a pro basketball fan, but he’s seen pro athletes act in ways he doesn’t always like, and he wanted to thank Wall for changing his impression.
“A lot of stars don’t even have the time to sign autographs; the fact that John Wall would actually come down on his own volition after working out, I think it was great,” Cordell told me. “I have to tell you, I think it’s so refreshing. All I can say is, I don’t know who his mother is, but she brought up him up well.”
Cordell’s 14-year old son, Sam, left the gym having made his first basket — “one of the best days ever,” his dad wrote. David, meanwhile, wrote that Wall “restored my faith in professional basketball players.”
(He also praised Phillips extensively, and said the Dreams for Kids volunteers were “incredible.”)
As for Horn, he went up to Wall as the star was leaving to give him a business card.
“He said he’ll definitely be in touch,” Horn recalled. “He thanked us for letting him come out. It was unbelievable.”
(Photos courtesy David Cordell and Dreams For Kids.)