An old picture of the Larry O’Brien trophy, left over from Antawn Jamison, has hung in John Wall’s locker room stall from the moment he became part of the Wizards — even after the locker room was refurbished with new mahogany last season.
When he returns to Washington later this month to start preparing for training camp, Wall is expecting to have his stall covered with other images. Wall didn’t think he could pose nude in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue without some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
“I know I’m going to have a magazine or a picture in my locker when I get back,” Wall said with a laugh last week.
Wall has already caught some flack from teammate Martell Webster, who recently said he had no plans to look at the magazine, which shows Wall dribbling naked and flexing in a bathtub with some bubbles allowing him to maintain some privacy.
“Martell had his jokes. He never goes by without saying anything,” Wall said, shaking his head. “If he didn’t do that, I wouldn’t believe it was Martell.”
Wall admitted that he was initially reluctant to reveal his body in a national publication. “I got asked before and I said no right away,” Wall said, “and then I just matured and I was like, ‘Man, forget it, I’ll just do it.’ It was exciting, it was fun. It was totally different.”
To Wall, the photographs were also a reflection of his physical comeback from a stress injury in his left knee. The injury forced Wall to miss the first three months of the regular season, and the inactivity caused the speedy point guard to get a little pudgy, with an unflattering picture of his midsection circulating around the Internet last fall.
“I didn’t like that John,” Wall said recently. “When I was injured, I couldn’t run. I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t get on a bike or nothing like that. it’s tough to eat something and not be able to work out. That was tough for me. When I seen that, I was very upset with myself. But when you have a knee or foot injury, you can’t run.”
Losing the weight, regaining his conditioning and getting his abdominal muscles back in order after hiring a personal chef to assist with his diet convinced Wall that it was also time to get some ink on his back-to-flat belly. Wall got a star in the middle of his sternum, with the skyline and 919 area code of his home town, Raleigh, N.C., along with a pair of hands, doves, a basketball and Interstate 40, just below.
“I feel like my confidence is back. I feel like I’m growing and I’m maturing, so I decided to just get it,” Wall said, explaining his decision to get tattoos after being vehemently against them in the past. “If I wear a jersey or something, you can’t see it. That’s how I always wanted them. You can’t see nothing unless I take my shirt off.”
When asked, jokingly, if he planned to spend his new $80 million contract on more tattoos, Wall laughed and said: “No. No. No. I’ll spend it off my Red Bull endorsement deal.”
Before his contract extension put him under more of a spotlight, Wall had already been very visible this offseason. He filmed a sketch for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” with comedian Jack Black called, “Adult Wolf.” He also took part in a promotion for the movie “R.I.P.D.” with Jeff Bridges. Wall credited the new-found exposure to spending his summers in Los Angeles and his agent, Dan Fegan, changing companies to Relativity Sports.
“I have great opportunity, they put me in great situations,” Wall said. “Being L.A. in the summer time, a lot of people called and asked if I could anything. I’m like I don’t have nothing to do. I had the opportunity to work with Jack Black, one of the funniest comedians, so I did that. I did the magazine shoot. I’m just enjoying my summer, but making sure I’m doing my job.”
Wall reiterated that his focus remains to deliver the actually Larry O’Brien trophy — and not just a framed picture in his locker — to Washington, which hasn’t won an NBA title since 1978, more than 12 years before he was born.
“In the next six years,” Wall said of his timetable for a championship. “Hopefully by then.”