John Wall brought hope to a franchise in desperate need of it when the Wizards won the lottery for the rights to select him with the first pick in the 2010 NBA draft. The lightning-quick point guard, whose rookie year coincided with Gilbert Arenas’s final season in D.C., became the centerpiece around which the Wizards rebuilt their team.
Wall was named to five All-Star Games and helped Washington make four playoff appearances over his first eight seasons, but after his latest and most devastating injury — a ruptured left Achilles' tendon suffered after a slip and fall in his home — it’s fair to wonder whether he’ll ever be the same player again.
The cruelest part of Tuesday’s news, which is expected to sideline Wall for at least 12 months, is that the 28-year-old had already made the apparently prudent decision in December to undergo season-ending surgery on his left heel with his future health in mind. Wall, whose four-year, $170 million “supermax” contract extension will kick in next season, could’ve continued to play through the pain, but that would’ve increased the likelihood of him eventually suffering a more serious injury.
“If I don’t want to deal with the pain or make it any worse and have an opportunity to maybe rupture my whole Achilles' later down the road, you get the surgery and take it out,” Wall said at the time.
That procedure, performed Jan. 8, was expected to sideline Wall for six to eight months. Now he’s facing a much longer recovery and more uncertain future.
Here’s a look back at some of the highs and lows of Wall’s injury-marred pro career:
June 24, 2010: Draft day
After one season at Kentucky, Wall declared for the NBA draft and was selected No. 1 overall by the Wizards. A left foot injury and a bone bruise in his right knee limited him to 69 games in his first season, but he averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds and was named to the NBA all-rookie first team. Wall finished a distant second to the Clippers' Blake Griffin in rookie of the year voting.
Dec. 10, 2011: “I’m 100 percent now”
Wall took nearly two months off to let his body heal after his rookie season and then went through a rigorous training regimen to regain his explosiveness. In December, two weeks before the start of the lockout-shortened season, Wall declared he was fully healthy.
“I feel this is my year to break out,” he said. “I’m 100 percent now. I’m way better than I was. I’m feeling the same way I felt when I first started playing here last year.”
Wall averaged 16.3 points, 8.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds in his second year, and he played in all 66 of the Wizards' games.
Sept. 28, 2012: Another setback
Before training camp, after an MRI exam on his sore left knee over the summer came back negative, Wall was diagnosed with the early stages of a stress injury in his left patella.
“Everybody decided we should check it out, because I’m the type of person that would try to play through an injury," Wall said. “ . . . It’s very tough for me. I’m going to go into the training room and try to get stronger, take my time and make sure I don’t rush back and force myself to come back anytime soon. Just prepare myself for whenever I get ready for the season.”
Wall made his season debut in mid-January and averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists over 49 games. The Wizards finished 29-53.
July 31, 2013: A new contract
The Wizards rewarded Wall with a five-year, $80 million contract that kicked in at the start of the 2014-15 season.
“I am both proud and humbled by the belief that the Wizards organization, the fans and my teammates have shown in me since I arrived here three years ago,” Wall said a statement. “I can promise all of them that I will repay that belief by representing the city of Washington and doing everything I can to get this team back where it belongs.”
Feb. 16, 2014: Wall wins the slam dunk contest
Wall played in all 82 games during the 2013-14 regular season and averaged career highs in points (19.3) and assists (8.8). He also made his first All-Star Game, where he won the slam dunk contest.
“Why not go out there and have fun?” Wall said. “I think it was a great opportunity for me to be in my first all-star to go out there and show what I can do.”
April 20, 2014: Wall makes his playoff debut
Wall had 16 points, six assists and six rebounds in his playoff debut, a 102-93 win over the Bulls. Washington eliminated Chicago in five games before losing to the Pacers in the second round.
Feb. 15, 2015: Wall-Star
Wall was voted a starter in the all-star game for the first time. He averaged a career-high 10 assists, played in 79 of 82 games and helped the Wizards to another trip to the second round of the playoffs.
May 5, 2016: Wall undergoes surgery on both knees
Three weeks after the Wizards' season ended without a playoff berth, Wall underwent surgery to have loose particles taken out of his right knee and calcium deposits removed from his left patella tendon. Wall, who averaged 19.9 points and 10.2 assists in 2015-16, had played in 238 of 246 possible regular season games over the previous three seasons.
“I am determined to lead this team back to the playoffs and getting healthy is the best way for me to accomplish that,” Wall said in a statement. “I can promise the fans, my teammates and the organization that I will be focused on that goal throughout the summer and it will drive me to do everything I can to be ready for next season."
Oct. 27, 2016: Wall plays in Wizards' season opener
Still working to get his conditioning back, Wall missed his first eight shots and finished with 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting in Washington’s season-opening loss to the Hawks. Wall went on to have the best season of his career, appearing in all but three games. He averaged 23.1 points and 10.7 assists, as the Wizards finished with their most wins (49) since 1979.
May 12, 2017: Game-winner against the Celtics
With the Wizards trailing the Celtics 91-89 in the closing seconds of Game 6 of their second-round playoff series, Wall buried a 26-foot three-pointer to force a deciding Game 7. After the biggest shot of his career, Wall jumped on the scorer’s table and tugged at his jersey as the home crowd roared.
“He put us on his back, and that’s why he’s a superstar," Wizards forward Markieff Morris said.
July 26, 2017: Wall signs ‘supermax’ deal
Less than three months after the Wizards lost Game 7 at Boston, Wall agreed to a four-year, $170 million “supermax” contract extension that would keep him in Washington for at least the next five years.
“Y’all know I wasn’t going nowhere,” Wall said in a video posted on the Uninterrupted Twitter account. “Re-signed with the Wizards, man. Signed my extension. You know where I want to be. I love being in D.C. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love the amazing fans. Just had to think it out with my family and friends. We made a decision. You know where I want to be at."
Nov. 25, 2017: Wall receives platelet-rich plasma injections
Wall was inactive for the first of nine consecutive games after receiving platelet-rich plasma and viscosupplementation injections to reduce the inflammation in his left knee, which had been ailing since he collided with a Mavericks player in the 10th game of the season.
“It’s two weeks. It’s not the entire season,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s two weeks and hopefully we can manage it.”
Jan. 30, 2018: Another procedure
Wall returned in mid-December and averaged 18.6 points and 9.3 assists over the Wizards' next 21 games, but his left knee continued to bother him.
“One game you might be feeling great, then the next game you might feel, like, terrible,” Wall said.
Wall elected to undergo an arthroscopic debridement procedure to resolve the issue and missed 27 games before returning for the final two weeks of the regular season. He started all six games and averaged 24 points and 10.6 assists in Washington’s first-round playoff loss to the Raptors.
Dec. 29, 2018: Season-ending surgery
The Wizards announced that Wall, who was averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 assists, would undergo surgery on his left heel and miss the remainder of the season.
Feb. 5, 2019: Another surgery
The Wizards announced that Wall ruptured his left Achilles' tendon “after slipping and falling in his home,” and that he was expected to miss at least 12 months.
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