Leave yourself a Post-it: John Wall made the leap Friday night. From good-player-bad-team, from fast-player-no-jump-shot, from great-player-no-shoe-deal — from all of that to one of the best players in the league. His 42-point, 44-minute Game 6 is impressive just to say out loud. He played so fast it looked like 84 points. The fact that he did it on the road, in a closeout game, and took the contest over in the fourth quarter in a way only the very best — LeBron, Kawhi, Russ, Harden — have in this postseason means that we should start considering him in the same class.
The velvet ropes that block certain players from being part of certain conversations are hard to understand. Wall is a great point guard during an unbelievable era for point guards. People don’t undervalue him as much as they’ve just run out of fingers. Once you get through counting Point God, and Russell Westbrook, and the two-time-defending MVP, and Kyrie, and Dame, and The Beard who just started playing point guard this season, and the Freak who sort of plays point guard … and did you guys see Kawhi last night? And of course LeBron, always LeBron. And wait, are we still talking about point guards? Oh, yeah. What about John Wall?
What about John Wall. The Wiz dispatched the Hawks, 115–99, and got good performances from Bradley Beal (31 points), Kelly Oubre Jr. (five steals), and Markieff Morris (17 points). But when the Hawks were making their run in the fourth and it looked like the road jitters were going to get to Washington and force a Game 7, John Wall said …
Which loosely translates to …
His 19 fourth-quarter points were more than the entire Hawks team could muster in the same frame. He scored Washington’s final 13 points, pulling stunts like this:
That play will slide into the slipstream of basketball history, but it shouldn’t. Everything about it — the D.I.Y. drive, the incredible effort at the end of a long game and a physical series, and the acrobatic finish — screams that Wall was not going to let his team lose. He knew no one could stop him. It was him saying: The next time I go home, I’m playing Isaiah Thomas, not Dennis Schröder.
The difference between being talented and being a star isn’t just some innate magnetism — it’s about responsibility. We got it twisted this season watching Russ — star players aren’t romantic; they’re heartbreakers. They’re the ones who step on throats, crush dreams, dash comebacks, and snuff out a series. They know it’s not always about the last shot, it’s about making sure your team doesn’t need to take one.