With Washington Wizards point guard John Wall seeking a max contract this summer, everything he does is going to be magnified.
This month, it's about Wall's body...period.
If you haven't heard, Wall is one of the athletes featured in ESPN The Magazine's popular "Body Issue" this year. Three photos of the 22-year-old appear in the magazine (two of them noticeably goofy). Once again, questions have popped up surrounding his worthiness of a max contract.
The third-year pro owns career averages of 16.9 points, 8.0 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Last season, he registered a PER of 21.25, sixth-best among point guards who averaged at least 30 minutes per game, via Hoopdata.com. He ranked ahead of Deron Williams and just behind Stephen Curry in the category.
So, in terms of his ability, there is a case to be made for Wall as a max-contract player.
The problem is, he's still young and growing, and there are always going to be those who don't like him because he has tattoos or because he posed nude for a magazine—as crazy or unfair as that is. When you are in the public spotlight, there is bound to be somebody—perhaps somebody very powerful—who doesn't like you because of a trivial detail. It's the nature of the beast.
But, seeing that Wall is widely expected to receive a max contract from the Wizards, and given his strong campaign in 2012-13, I would argue that he's doing OK for himself.
I think the Body Issue will help his marketing appeal.
In terms of marketing, you don't have to be an upstanding citizen who does everything by the book. In fact, that could work against you. There are plenty of players out there with plenty of issues who receive lucrative deals.
Basically, it's about being entertaining and reaching a wide variety of people. Some things about Wall may bother you, but he does entertain, and his inclusion in the Body Issue is going to grant him even more exposure (no pun intended).
In 2011, we saw it with U.S. women's goalkeeper Hope Solo. Sure, Solo was a star in her own right on the pitch, but there's no doubt appearing in the Body Issue catapulted her to another level. She went from superstar athlete to superstar marketer, going on to write the autobiography Solo: A Memoir of Hope, which debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times hardcover, non-fiction best seller list (the highest debut ever for a soccer book).
Wall is just beginning to understand how to get the most out of his marketability. He's having fun, being himself and finding more ways to reach out to an audience.
Now, his next step will be using his athleticism and his smarts to make a max contract worth every penny.