No player has defined the Washington Wizards organization since they rebranded 20 years ago quite like John Wall, a superstar point guard who has developed from a first overall pick into a perennial All-Star and pillar of playoff success. Wall has etched a unique legacy within the franchise's history in just seven NBA seasons. Now he has ensured them of at least six more.
It's the yearly terms that stand out most in Wall's new contract with the Wizards, a four-year extension worth $170 million. Four years does not sound long, but that will take Wall through at least the majority, if not all, of his prime. He will enter his Age 27 season this fall, but with two years left on his current deal Wall's new contract will keep him in Washington through 2023. He will be 32 by the time it expires.
If Wall complets those 13 seasons with the Wizards, barring a trade or something unforeseen, he will have played as long for one team as Wes Unseld (Bullets), Larry Bird (Celtics), Kevin McHale (Celtics), Magic Johnson (Lakers) and Isaiah Thomas (Pistons). Dwyane Wade spent 13 seasons with the Heat before leaving. Michael Jordan played 13 in Chicago.
Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki (Mavs, 19 years), Tony Parker (Spurs, 16), Manu Ginobli (Spurs, 15) and Udonis Haslem (Heat, 14) have been with one team longer than 13 years.
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Only Unseld has spent more than nine seasons with the Wizards/Bullets franchise. Wall is two years away from matching the six players tied for second with nine seasons including Phil Chenier, Gus Johnson and Elvin Hayes. Those guys were all Bullets. Wall is a Wizard through and through.
Evaluating this partnership from Wall's perspective is interesting. Naturally, the Wizards would be willing to retain him for the longhaul. He is one of the best players in the NBA and has the off-court comportment any team would covet as the face of their franchise. But for Wall to make this commitment is a rare display of loyalty in an age where NBA superstars jump teams like never before.
Loyalty may not be the perfect word, as ultimately Wall will make much more money in Washington than he could elsewhere. But his devotion to the city of Washington and finishing what he started with a franchise that has experienced many lean years for decades is nearly unparalleled in this day and age.
Think about it. How many players in today's NBA more define the franchise they play for, not just in contemporary terms but in the team's history? Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, Paul George left Indiana, Gordon Hayward left Utah and Chris Paul left the Clippers, all within the last 13 months. Meanwhile, Wall has never wavered publicly about his commitment to the Wizards.
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Wall's firm allegiance to the Wizards has helped the team hold up a point majority owner Ted Leonsis made during Wednesday's press conference to announce Otto Porter's own max contract, that he prefers "no drama" in contract negotiations. He boasted how there was no drama in Wall's first max deal signed back in 2013, nor was there any with Bradley Beal last summer or Porter this year. Now, with Wall's second contract, the Wizards have been able to get these deals done without any sort of realistic doubt for fans about their favorite players leaving. That is no small feat.
That is of course in great contrast with many NBA superstars between Dwight Howard's days in Orlando, Paul's time in New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony's tenure in both Denver and New York, LeBron James in both of his stints in Cleveland, etc. Some of those players left, some didn't. But all had drama that lasted for years and weighed heavily on everyone involved.
Wizards fans, on the other hand, had no serious fear of seeing Wall go. That is an unusual sense of security in most places but even more so in the city of Washington. Between Kirk Cousins and Bryce Harper, the thought of losing a franchise cornerstone is a very real thing for D.C. fans. Cousins and Harper have done nothing wrong and they shouldn't be faulted for playing their hand in what is ultimately a cutthroat business, but it's hard not to notice how Wall has gone out of his way to make D.C. his home, embracing the city in every sense.
Keeping great players and the longevity of stardom is something even more foreign to those who have rooted for the Bullets and Wizards over the last few decades. It's not that they haven't acquired superstars, they just haven't been able to keep them.
Chris Webber could end up in the Hall of Fame someday, but Washington traded him at the beginning of his prime. Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace all became stars after leaving D.C. and helped win a championship for the Detroit Pistons. Gilbert Arenas was a sensation, but his tenure was brief and ultimately catastrophic.
Wall's career in Washington has already gone much differently than those. And because of his new contract, fans can dream about the future knowing he will be a part of it.
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