Over the weekend, the Washington Wizards played a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings. But this wasn’t your typical preseason game. Former Kentucky stars and current NBA superstars John Wall and Demarcus Cousins squared off against each other in their former college arena, Rupp Arena, home of the Kentucky Wildcats. With Coach John Calipari in attendance, the two squared off in highly contested match that was a treat for the viewing audience, fans of Kentucky Basketball and NBA fans all over the world.
While it may have just been a meaningless preseason game to most of us, it meant a lot more to John Wall. The All-American guard and 3-time NBA All Star loves his college basketball team and considers himself very close to Coach Cal. And it wasn’t just Wall who was excited to be back in Lexington. He nearly caused a traffic accident upon his arrival. Wall told reporters on Friday night that he “almost caused an accident walking down the street because some man was trying to stop to take a picture but there was traffic going.” All seriousness and jokes aside, Wall added that “it’s always fun and amazing to be back. The love and support I get here, I can’t deny it.”
During his time back on campus, Wall hit up some of the local restaurants, walked around campus and even took some time out to sign some autographs for fans. The timing of this game worked out perfectly for Kentucky fans as it came on the same weekend as Kentucky’s “Big Blue Madness” which celebrates the start of the college basketball season and introduces the fan base to the returning players as well as some of the new recruits who look to make an impact for Coach Cal’s squad. The love and attention John Wall gets in Lexington is unprecedented. While he may not be the biggest figure in recent memory, many fans constantly bring up John Wall when referencing past Kentucky teams. Even though he was only there for one season, he certainly left his mark and the fans left a lasting impression on him as well.
“I wish we could play a preseason game here every year. It’s amazing, especially with the fanbase, how many people come out.” — John Wall
It’s hard for me to watch that game, take in the environment from the weekend and see what amazing loyalty UK fans have towards their players and not think of the total polar opposite environment the fans provide Wall and the rest of the team at Verizon Center. Watching that game in Rupp Arena, you could hear the crowd “oo-ing and ahh-ing” every time Wall dribbled up the court, took a shot or even flew in for a huge dunk. You could easily see that Wall was the fan favorite in that Arena. With dozens of blue and white #11 jerseys in the crowd, Wall certainly was the guy most people were excited to see return. That love, dedication and support he gets from the fan base creates a family environment that Wall seems to love. He told Washington Post’s Candice Buckner that “it’s kind of amazing. I love it. It’s great to know the fans still love me, and I appreciate them a lot.”
We all love that feeling. Going back to your old stomping grounds, reminiscing on your college nights and remembering what you did on campus is always fun. So while it was a great experience for Wall to go back, it’s now time for him to channel that love and passion towards this season. With a new head coach, tons of new players to work with and a back court teammate fresh off a $128 million extension, it’s time for John to show the league why the Kentucky fans appreciate him so much. We know all about his talent on the court, all the great things he does off the court, but it’s time for him to take this team to the next level. As he goes, the rest of the team goes. Simply put, and to quote Wall himself, “it’s time for him to be the man this season in Washington and lead the Wizards back to the postseason.”