Earlier this week, the Washington Wizards and the Houston Rockets shocked the basketball world with the biggest trade of the offseason. The Washington Wizards sent point guard John Wall and a first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook. The basketball implications of the trade are astronomical. Wall will reunite with his former college teammate Demarcus Cousins. Fans may also see the addition of John Wall as the team's last ditched effort to keep James Harden from pushing for a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. Meanwhile, the addition of Westbrook may have an interesting effect on one of the league's rising stars, Bradley Beal. All things considered, it's difficult to say who the "winner" or "loser" of the transaction is.
Beyond the x's and o's of basketball, it's clear that the nation's capital is losing one of the city's most philanthropic stars. Yes, NBA stars give back in many ways to their respective cities, but the relationship Wall has with the Chocolate City is special. Over the years, it was not a rare occurrence to see Wall at a local club at night and then read about him paying the rent of an entire apartment building the next day. As a college student in the nation's capital, I can recall my friends and I joking that Wall was the "Rosebar President" because we saw him there so often. While injuries and poor managerial decisions hindered performance on the court, his light within the city never dimmed. With Wall set to depart the city in a matter of days, it would be irresponsible not to look back at the things Wall did to give back to Washington, D.C.
First Quarter: The Infamous Rosebar Jersey
Wall is no stranger to a good time. From the moment he stepped foot on to the court in Capital One Arena, he hit the dougie in celebration. At times, sports pundits criticized the All-Star point guard for spending too much time at nightclubs and gentleman's clubs. While the North Carolina native enjoyed the night lights, he did so just as much as any other professional athlete. More importantly, the nation's capital is a communal space. To not be out and about is to almost not be a part of the city. Whether you're grabbing food from Horace and Dickies or enjoying brunch at St. Yves, everything is done in a celebratory, party like gathering. Unfortunately, many sportscasters outside of the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are may not understand that.
When he decided to collaborate with a local brand called G.O.O.N.S to create a special Wizards jersey to highlight a special nightlife establishment called Rosebar, many thought it confirmed what they had already felt. Instead, it did the exact opposite. As Candace Buckner of The Washington Post uncovered in a post-game interview, Wall's mother was battling breast cancer. Subsequently, the profits from the special jersey sale went towards benefiting breast cancer research. Like much of Wall's career, the perception of his actions did not match reality.
Second Quarter: The $400,000 Donation To The Bright Beginnings Center
Before I became a full-time blogger and journalist, I was a college student at American University in the northwest section of Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C. is unique as a college student because it is a city that does not lend itself to being a college town. To get the full college experience, you have to get off campus and see the city. As a young adult, I connected with the District through working and volunteering at public schools across the city. One day I could work at the Amidon-Bowen School near the city's waterfront and the next day I worked at Malcolm X Elementary School in the southeast section of city. Through these experiences, I learned what it was like to be a young person in this bustling metropolis. The reality was far from the House of Cards or West Wing depictions. Some of the brightest kids I came across battled homelessness, worked jobs at extremely young ages or struggled getting to and from the school.
As a college sophomore, I'll never forget the day when I came across a student who was overcome with joy because he had met John Wall at a local event. Hours later, I found myself in my dorm room bored and scrolling through Twitter. Remembering what my student had told me, I decided to search John Wall's name. Through my search, I quickly learned that the Wizards star had donated $400,000 to Bright Beginnings.
"I like how they give parents an opportunity to find a job, giving those kids an opportunity to get education, have somewhere to sleep, some food to eat. I thought it was important to give back," Wall said.
Bright Beginnings is a special organization in Washington, D.C. that assists families balancing childcare and work. They can work with kids with learning disabilities, offer home based services and much more.
"The kids … they don’t know what’s happening and what I did. Only the people that was working there," he added.
Third Quarter: Giving Back When Capitol Hill Fails To Do So
Over the course of this year, many Americans have been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Frustrated many, lawmakers have only doled out one stimulus payment to struggling families across the map. One of the hardest hit areas has been Washington, D.C. Iconic Black businesses like Ben's Chili Bowl and Horace & Dickie's have struggled to keep their doors open. Major employers like Aramark and Metro DC have laid off a number of employees. In an area that is predominantly Black, Black communities have been hit the hardest.
While politicians bicker just blocks away, Wall stepped in to offer everything that he could. Through his foundation, Wall collaborated with Housing Counseling Services, Inc. and Lydia's House to raise a month's worth of rent for resident's of the city's ninth ward.
“D.C. has been my second home for 10 years now, and I have always had a strong connection to the community,” Wall said.
“After learning how COVID-19 has affected the residents of Ward 8, I felt that I needed to act which is why I have partnered with the city. I hope that others will join me to help those in need during these uncertain times.”
Ultimately, he and his partners raised more than half of a million dollars to cover rent in one of the District's hardest hit areas.
Fourth Quarter: The Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway
He is not the first nor will he be the last to hold a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway. This year, it's not only about the fact that he offered free meals in need, but it's also about the fact that he was giving back to the city up until the moment he left. With the help of Ethika and my favorite restaurant, Henry's Soul Food Cafe, he distributed 1,000 turkeys in the cold. In many ways, it is events like this that exemplify his relationship with the nation's capital. No, the Wizards haven't won a championship. No, the Wizards haven't won 50 regular games in my lifetime. However, that doesn't matter to me when I consider all that Wall has done for the District. From turkey giveaways to rent assistance and beyond, he was so much more than a basketball player. He gave the city five All-Star appearances, four playoff appearances and 22 playoff wins, but that was never the point. In a city where leadership lacks on Capitol Hill, Wall was a leader and inspiration. Hopefully, he returns to his home away from home when the time comes.
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