It’s about time the District showed well. Currently engulfed in a forgettable season (yes, another one), Washington, D.C., actually showed some promise in the NBA this past weekend. Thanks, John Wall for setting the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge record with 22 assists (special thanks for that bounce-pass alley-oop to Blake Griffin). Thanks, JaVale McGee for the most creative dunks we’ve seen in a dunk contest in years, possibly ever (special thanks for him bringing his mother out to greet the judges). The two most energetic stars of the Washington Wizards actually made their hometown fans proud this weekend and gave the Wizards their first signature win of the season, even bigger than their road win in Cleveland a few weeks ago.

The Wall and McGee duo has had the D.C. spotlight since the two showed off in the Summer League last year. Their athleticism, however, was on full national broadcast as millions tuned in for NBA All Star Weekend. When you dish the ball around for 22 assists, you’re a special point guard. When you dunk two basketballs in two rims then follow that up with three balls in one, you’re just special, period. Now, if there was only someway to parlay those skills into a winning team. But that’s another story—different time; different place.

Wall, 20, and McGee, 23, have officially put Wizards basketball on the map for all the right reasons. It didn’t take a practical joke or a gun charge this time around to put the Wizards in the headlines. Talent and athleticism have perhaps earned Washington a few extra television slots next year, and if not for a new 2011 Kia car (special thanks to that Griffin guy for jumping over it, wow), D.C. could’ve been home to the Sprite Slam Dunk champion and the Rookie/Sophomore game MVP. I can’t remember the last time two Washington players (Bullets or Wizards) excelled at an All Star weekend in such fashion, stealing the show for much of the night on back-to-back days.

Considering what we just saw, Washington may actually have two of the premier athletes at their position, which doesn’t necessarily equal a lot of wins, but it’s a hell of an advantage point. Wall belongs to the elite trio of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook—point guards with incredible speed, quickness and crazy athleticism. Besides Dwight Howard, there probably isn’t a center in the league with enough bounce to match McGee who, quiet as it’s kept, may be a better athlete than Howard anyway.

All Star flashes don’t equal great NBA teams and jaw-dropping athleticism doesn’t equate to NBA championships. But, they’re both great excellent places to start when you’re trying to rebuild a franchise and they do serve as good cooler talk when you’re trying to argue how the Wizards are the league’s next big thing.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO