For the fifth straight year, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall has given away backpacks to the youth of D.C. as they get ready to return to school. In cooperation with the John Wall Family Foundation, the five-time All-Star gave away 2,500 backpacks over the last four years and he had 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies along with t-shirts courtesy of adidas to give away on Saturday. Despite it being hot and humid early in the morning, Wall made a concerted effort to hand a backpack to each student himself and take a picture with them, too.
Growing up with only one parent consistently around, Wall did not get the benefits of a luxurious childhood. Seeing the struggles of his mother to provide for him and his sisters motivates him to give back.
“Coming from where I come from, you have to go get it on your own so there wasn’t no one to really give you anything, making it easier for you so I see my mom sacrificing. Working three or four jobs, sometimes not paying the light bill to get me to play in the basketball tournament,” Wall shared.
Not all athletes make a point to give back to the community, especially when they did not grow up here, but Wall is different. He sincerely enjoys helping others, which makes sense given his sharing nature as a true point guard in today’s NBA.
“Opportunity to give back to the community, kind of bless these people with the opportunity to have stuff to go back to school with,” Wall explained. “It’s just fun for me, something I like to do. I’m not forced to be here. I just do it because I want to and to see the smile on these kids faces, that’s what I do it all for.”
Wall hopes that he can relate to these kids who may be going through similar struggles that he did growing up to serve as an example that with enough hard work anything is possible.
“Giving them the opportunity to meet someone like me that’s a NBA superstar, a player in the NBA,” Wall reasoned. “I never had the opportunity to grow up and meet anybody that was a professional athlete in any sport. Just to show these kids that where I come from is the same place they come from and they have the opportunity to make it. Whatever they want to do in life, they have to put 110 percent effort behind it.”
A backpack may not seem like much from an NBA player that is a multimillionaire, but it can go a long way in helping each student get off to a good start to begin the school year. Dozens of kids looked like it was Christmas morning when Wall handed them a high-quality backpack, while touring the other different stations that provided snacks, drinks, and more school supplies.
“All those type of things [backpack, notebook, pencils], you need to go to the first day of school. Sometimes, I remember I go to the first day of school, I didn’t have half the stuff. Just a bookbag or maybe just a notebook, try to survive through that aspect. So I just try to make it easy for their parents so they don’t have to sacrifice trying to get all those things,” Wall said.
Aside from the annual backpack giveaways, Wall has been a big supporter of Bright Beginnings, a D.C. non-profit dedicated to the education and development of homeless children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. At the end of July, Bright Beginnings opened a new center in Congress Heights where Wall’s mother was on-site to participate in its ribbon-cutting ceremony on behalf of the point guard. Wall is expected to visit the new center this offseason. The Raleigh native also takes great pride in mentoring the players on his AAU team, which is just another example of his charitable accomplishments.
“That’s just a step in what I’ve done and there’s even more I want to do to add on to that,” Wall shared about his involvement with Bright Beginnings. “But, that was a great start for me to be able to see single mothers get an opportunity to get a job, see their kids have somewhere to stay, have an opportunity to get an education because those kids are put into that [tough] situation. You never know the aspects of what someone’s family has been through, the ups and downs, the obstacles they have to go through so to see them not have to worry about how my kid is going to go to school or how I can get a job, I just try to do the best I can to give back to the community.”
“Me as a basketball player, these high school kids looking to me all the time,” Wall explained. “I try to give them the opportunity to talk to me whenever they need in-game, to help them get through high school, to help them get through college. Help these kids to get opportunities from my own AAU team, to put them in a position to succeed. So what he’s [LeBron’s] doing, I give hats all off to him. What he’s done, you can’t knock that off.”
Just this past week, LeBron James opened up his own school in Ohio where he will provide additional other services for the students attending the ‘I Promise’ school such as free tuition upon graduation to the University of Akron and helping the parents find jobs. Wall is a big fan of what his friend has accomplished along with the scholarship that former MVP Derrick Rose set up.
“Greatest thing ever,” Wall began. “I think LeBron has reached the highest level you can reach. To start a school, that’s unheard of. As everything you dream of is people want to respect you more off the court than anything and that’s what he’s always established. A lot of people don’t respect LeBron, like LeBron, but one thing you have to do is respect how he is as a business man. He’s probably the best you’ve ever seen in this game of what he does off the court of making sure people are put in the right situations. I think a lot of people understand he opened a school, but they didn’t read all the other things that came with it. Making sure their family was situated, making sure if you graduate you’ve got a full ride to go to school. People don’t see those type of things, free tuition, that’s what it’s all about. To open a school and then have these kids still have to pay for it, that’s different, but he set the bar as high as anything. What Derrick [Rose] did is amazing. I think that’s the platform you have to have when you have this opportunity, not about all the money you make, but what can you do to give back. We’re blessed to be able to play the game that we love to make sure our families should be straight for later down the road, but can we help other people out, that’s what it’s all for.”
Borderline moronically, not everyone can appreciate the tremendous deed that James accomplished through the opening of a school. Wall had not seen Donald Trump’s tweet at the time, but explained how the best player in today’s NBA has always guided youth, including Wall himself.
“That’s cool, you think LeBron cares? All I can say is he’s doing his part. As a basketball player, a lot of people don’t like him. That’s fine with him, but what he does off the court you have to respect he’s paved the way for a lot of us. Taking these little kids under his wing, he’s always been that type of guy, big brother. Since I was in 10th grade, he took me under his wing and just paved the way for me and that’s all you’re supposed to do.”