john wall

Body of Work

Photography: Cassy Athena

NBA star opens up on his Raleigh come-up and the tight-knit circle that made it possible.

Last season, John Wall, the point guard for the Washington Wizards, joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Chris Paul as the only players to average at least 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds through their first 300 games. The team made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but Wall’s wrist injury halted their promising chances. This year, expectations are even higher as Wall looks to bring a ring to D.C. and expand on his body of work in the NBA.

In the meantime, Wall continues to build another body of work during the offseason: his tattoos. After getting his first ink, the skyline of his hometown Raleigh, North Carolina with hands reaching out to a basketball and doves flying away, Wall was hooked.

“I always wanted one and he [Randy Harris, tattoo artist] made me get in the chair first before anybody,” says Wall. “The first one took five hours, but I couldn’t punk out and shy away from it.”

Here, we dive into some of the more important tattoos that paint a picture of the basketball player’s family history and the milestones that have impacted his career.

“All my tattoos mean something to me,” says Wall. “I want to make it feel like one big picture.”

Ribs: A Valley of Shadows

Wall’s latest tattoo features a picture of Jesus Christ and Wall walking up a valley of shadows. “It goes back to my tattoo of Psalm 23:4 saying even though you’re walking through a valley of death you will fear no evil,” says Wall. “So it’s like me walking up a Valley of Shadows.” Check out the ink process in the video below.

Wall gets his latest tattoo by artist Randy Harris. 

Left Pec: John and his Dad

His name was John Carroll Wall Sr. and he went to jail for robbery with a dangerous weapon when Wall Jr. was one. For the next seven years, Wall visited his dad at the penitentiary nearly every Sunday.  By the time his father was released when Wall was 9, Wall Sr. was terminally ill with liver cancer and passed away soon after.

Right Pec: The Words “Momma’s Boy”

After his dad died, Wall’s mother, Frances Pulley, raised Wall and steered him to take basketball seriously.  Angry as a child when his dad passed away, Wall entered a period of transgressions and it seemed he was destined for a tough life. But his mother sacrificed everything, including paying the electric bills, so that her son could play in tournaments and succeed. 

john wall

Wall was drafted by the Wizards after playing one year at the University of Kentucky and since has become a two-time NBA All-Star.

Right Shoulder: 3 A Life

This mark symbolizes his friendship with former Kentucky teammates and current NBA players DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe.  Friendship and loyalty is a common theme when John talks about his rise from Raleigh to the NBA.  Wall has kept a tight circle of friends around him who have been loyal since before he became the number one high school basketball player in the country. They call themselves “5-Deep” and it includes Reggie Jackson, E.J. (Eric Grissett, Jr.), Alban “Bane” Okafor and Ty Williams.

“We always clicked and they never were ‘Yes Men’ to me,” says Wall.  “When I became the best player in high school, they didn’t say, ‘We’ll do what you want to do.’ They tried to keep me out of trouble and made sure I’d do school work to get ready for college.”

Wall and the Wizards now get ready for a 2015-16 season that has them positioned to be in the upper echelon of the East. No doubt 5-Deep and his family will be there for the ride. 

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08 2015

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