NBA

Washington belongs to John Wall

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12:  John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards reacts after a basket against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at Verizon Center on May 12, 2017 in Washington, DC.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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One day, the statue outside Verizon Center will be a flexing John Wall.

On Friday night, he wrote another page in his story, this the most thrilling chapter so far. After drilling the Game 6 game-winner, Wall climbed up onto the scorer’s table and declared, “This is my city”. A cathartic moment for a superstar and a fanbase that have being doubted for far too long.

The Wizards’ point guard has embraced the mantle of being Washington’s sports hero. When there was no one else there was John Wall.

So, with the team’s season on the line, it’s only fitting that Washington’s superstar saved the day and delivered a signature moment for all of D.C.

With 3.5 seconds left on the clock, out of a time out, Wall nailed a go-ahead three-pointer over the outstretched arms of Avery Bradley, putting the Wizards up by one. With that the shadows of doubt over both Wall and this franchise fell like dominos in rapid succession:

It was John Wall’s first go-ahead three with less than 10 seconds in a game in his career.

It snapped a streak of seven straight elimination games the Wizards had lost at home.

It made Colin Cowherd look like a moron for the 18-millionth time.

And it kept the Wizards season alive – at least for another 48 hours.

But what it also did was etch Wall into the hearts of Washington sports fans forever.

Sure, he’s been the face of this franchise since the day he was drafted first overall back in 2010.

And, yes, the team has now won two playoff series with Wall in driver’s seat.

So, why does a jump-shot in the final moments of a game to keep a series alive mean so much?

For starters, it gave John Wall his signature moment. It was truly the biggest shot ever made in the Verizon Centre – and a shot that three years ago many wouldn’t believe he’d make – or get the chance to.

With that shot, Wall catapulted himself into the upper echelons of D.C. sports folklore.

Washington is a city that’s had its fair share of bad luck, misfortune and general sports failures. It doesn’t have a winning reputation – at least not in recent times and Wall’s big bucket – at least for a night – vanquished the sports demons that plague the psyche of the city and its fans.

In an instant, another brutal week of Washington sports vanished.

A week where the Capitals, the Wizards’ ice-hockey co-tenants, choked – yet again – and the Wizards were blown out in Game 5 in Boston.

“A classic D.C. sports night,” a friend remarked to me on Thursday morning.

For the most part, Friday had all the hallmarks of a city ready to rollover and start dreaming of baseball in October again.

The Celtics dressed in all-black for a funeral, another awesome iteration in the weird petty conflict between these two franchises.

And the Wizards looked to be digging their own grave early.

A 10-point lead in the second quarter evaporated by half time – despite the fact the Celtics seemingly shot -25% from the field.

The game see-sawed in the second half. Neither team looked like they’d be able to deliver the knockout blow but Washington was bracing for heartbreak.

With just 2 minutes to go, Isaiah Thomas found some space on the right side and whacked a jumper to put the Celtics up two. The next time down the floor, the diminutive star nailed a three to put the Celtics up five.

With that, the Wizards season was on life-support. But John Wall wasn’t done.

First, he barreled his way through the lane, drew a foul and calmly knocked down two free throws. Then, the Celtics coughed up the ball and Bradley Beal nailed a go-ahead three-pointer to even the ledger at 87.

Avery Bradley and Beal then traded buckets and Al Horford put the Celtics up two with 7 seconds to go.

On the ensuing possession, Wall, a career 32% three-point shooter, fired a triple on an inbounds play that broke down – and took a shot that was actually meant for Beal.

Money.

“Don’t come to my city, wearing all black, talking about a funeral,” Wall said after the game.

As you walk around Verizon Center, you see fans wearing a smattering of different jerseys. There are some that belong to the G.O.A.T who spent the twilight of his career in Washington – others still rep the threads of a former point guard, Gilbert Arenas (some even where that ghastly gold version from the early 00s).

But most wear number 2. While both Gilbert and Michael were big names in Washington for a time, John Wall has made his career here – often with little help – and in turn, made this franchise his own.

Remember, this was a team that he joined in 2010 that was made up of has-beens, nobodys and also-rans. Some of his first teammates included: Gilbert, Javale, Swaggy P, Hilton Armstrong, Yi Jianlian, Andray Blatche, Mike Bibby and Rashard Lewis.

Hell, it’s a minor miracle he made it this far.

He’s the only one left from those dark days of Wizards basketball. Since he was drafted in 2010, the Wizards have slowly but surely built a team around his strengths.

Bradley Beal joined him as the Robin to his Batman in 2012 and has grown into a prolific scorer and Otto Porter (groomed by The Truth) is coming into his own.

Finally, John Wall has a supporting cast that can help him but make no mistake this is his basketball team. This is his city.

“To get on the scorer’s table, it was for how much love I have for this city, how much love I have for my teammates and how much fight we have,” Wall said.

“I just wanted the city to know that we love them for all the support they give us.”

John Wall is Washington’s superstar not just in basketball – but all sports. A sliver of hope that suggestions that maybe, just maybe, Washington sports fans can have nice things.

On Monday, the team faces a bigger task: beating the Celtics at the Garden. The home team has one every game between these two sides not only in this series but in the regular season as well.

But John Wall proved to Washington fans Friday – anything is possible.

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