She lost her husband young, too. Hillerd Keith, John’s grandfather, was just 35 when he was slain. “Man killed him over 10 dollars. He said Hillerd took it from him. After he shot him, he found the 10 dollars in his own pocket. He died for nothin’, right on my front porch.”
It’s part of the reason they all made sure John Wall lives for something. They cleaned homes and hotels to make ends meet. His mother drove a school bus and worked full time at a Days Inn as a maid, often forced to clean up the foulest stench imaginable.
She stopped working four years ago because of a brain aneurysm. But the rest of the family kept their jobs or stayed in school, ensuring they didn’t just wait for handouts from their millionaire NBA relative.
Wall recently made his first big purchase since becoming the Wizards’ No. 1 pick in 2010. He’s about to close on an eight-bedroom spread in Potomac, where several rooms already have been claimed.
“I got the nanny’s quarters,” Frances Pulley says, chuckling. “It’s got a refrigerator, stove, bathroom, everything. I won’t even have to leave.”
“It’s hers,” John says, nodding.
Asked if her son had a girlfriend or planned to marry at some point, Frances adds, protectively, “I’m the only wife he’s going to need for a while.”
The room began to clear out except for Wall’s family and a few reporters. He began to shadowbox with his sisters and then took pictures with his aunts, his mom and his siblings in front of the Wizards logo. He was asked what brought on the emotional moment on the dais.
“Trying not to look at my mom,” he began, “because she’s the most emotional person.
“It was like a breathtaking moment, seeing my mom and seeing everything she worked for. I mean, I do this because I love the game of basketball and I love playing it, but you also do it for her, as a single parent and what she had to do to raise us. And I feel I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity, especially to take care of her for the rest of her life and do other things in the community, like I said, and do other things for other people.”
You didn’t have to look at the numbers, or forecast a postseason in the Wizards’ future, to know the right decision was made in paying Wall to stay as long as he wants. No, the tears and the words were enough.
For more by Mike Wise, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.