John Wall’s SI cover is just the most recent in a–somehow, despite only playing 15 games–long line of events that are quickly making him the most important player to wear a Kentucky uniform in quite some time. I love Patrick Patterson and Jamal Mashburn as much as anyone, and those mid-90’s Kentucky teams will always have a special place in my heart (this should be obvious by now–I’ve written more about them and Pitino over the last week than any sane, heterosexual male should), but John Wall is giving the school a level of exposure and publicity that we’ve never had before.
John Wall, at this moment, is the coolest basketball player on planet Earth. And, if you’ve read this site before, you know how important I believe it to be to have a cool player or two hanging around the program. All across the country this week (and, to a lesser degree, the last couple of weeks), middle school and high school basketball players will hear, read, and learn more about John Wall than they will about LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Kobe Bryant combined. He is currently the flavor of the week, and that’s something Kentucky hasn’t had in a long, long time.
Mashburn was an All-American. Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans were both awesome players, as was Rajon Rondo. But none of those guys came even close to being what Wall is now. He doesn’t just have skill, he has it. He’s a transcendent talent that only comes through college basketball once every decade or so. Allen Iverson was that guy in the 90’s. Kevin Durant was the same guy four years ago. Like Bill Simmons said via Twitter, John Wall is the kind of player that makes people, regardless of whether or not they give a damn about UK, check their cable guide every night to see if Kentucky’s playing on TV. He’s the kind of player that has high schoolers in North Dakota right now asking each other if they saw the spin-move Wall made in the Louisville game. People can’t get enough of him. And I know there are scouts out there saying that Brandon Knight is next year’s John Wall, and to be fair we shouldn’t completely write that possibility off, but it’s highly unlikely that Knight could ever conjure up the kind of attention Wall’s currently receiving (and I realize the last sentence I wrote makes it sounds like Knight to UK is a done deal, but I know it’s not). Wall’s taken this program to another level–he is the It player of the moment, and, by association, Kentucky is the It team.
Enjoy this stuff while it lasts. It doesn’t happen often.