John Wall wears many hats.
Most of the time, you'll see him in Washington Wizards red, white and blue, attempting to lead the team to victory. On other occasions, you just might see him spearhead a campaign to answer the question: What city produces the best basketball talent?
That's been the case since June, when Wall partnered with Red Bull to bring us the Red Bull Midnight Run Finals, a "nationwide invite-only basketball competition for elite players," designed to figure out which city produces the best basketball talent, per the press release.
Following seven months of competitions, the top eight players from each of the nine featured cities—Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—will meet at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Jan. 10, immediately after the Brooklyn Nets take on the Miami Heat.
Wall sat down with Bleacher Report to discuss his involvement in the Red Bull Midnight Run Finals, while also touching upon various other topics, including his All-Star-worthy campaign and the NBA's point guard hierarchy.
"It’s going to be an exciting final showdown," said Wall, one of the talent scouts who helped assemble teams, in the press release. "This competition has guys who are going to battle it out in order to represent their city. There’s a lot of respect for these guys, and they’re going to play hard to earn those bragging rights."
Unlike many other competitions, this isn't about tangible prizes. It's about pride. About respect.
About leaving with the ultimate form of bragging rights.
Bleacher Report: Besides yourself, who would you say is the toughest point guard to defend in the league right now?
John Wall: I would probably say Stephen Curry, because he runs off screens without the ball, he goes over screens and he has probably one of the quickest releases in the NBA when shooting jump shots. So you really have to be physical and stay attached to him. That would probably be one of my toughest ones of the healthy point guards right now.
B/R: If you had to make a list of the top five active point guards, who would be on it?
JW: Active point guards? I would say Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, me and Kyrie [Irving.]
B/R: Do you have an all-time starting five? Who makes the cut?
JW: Magic Johnson is my point guard; Michael Jordan definitely; Wilt Chamberlain; Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]; and LeBron [James.]
B/R: You're putting up great stats and having a phenomenal year. What would it mean to you personally if you earn your first All-Star selection?
JW: That's my personal goal. It would be a dream come true, you know what I mean? Every player wants to be an All-Star, wants to be MVP and win a championship. It would be a big accomplishment for me; one of the goals I put forth for myself before the beginning of the season.
Like I say, the only way you get to those situations and get the opportunity is you've got to win games and you've got to lead your team. That's what I'm trying to do—lead my team to the playoffs. And keep playing the right way.
B/R: If you had to make a prediction, do you think we'll see you on the All-Star team this year?
JW: Yeah, I think so. That's what my opinion would be. But you just sit back and let the fans do their vote, and let the coaches make their decision.
I feel like the way I'm playing this season, and with the effort I'm putting in and improvement I'm making, hopefully I get that nod. If not, you just look past it and try to help your team make the playoffs.
B/R: Like you said, you've put in a lot of effort to improve this season. What would you say is the most underrated aspect of your game right now?
JW: I don't really know; I'm getting a lot of credit. The things I've improved on are my jump shot, leading my team and being a more vocal leader. Basically, I'm getting a nod for everything I'm doing. The main thing I still have to do is find a way to keep winning games.
B/R: What has to happen for you and the Wizards the rest of this season for it to be constituted as a success?
JW: The only thing I can say is "playoffs." That was the biggest goal going into my fourth year. Everything would be a waste of time if you're not making the playoffs. That's how I feel about the situation, to be honest.
B/R: What's your favorite part about the Red Bull Midnight Run Finals?
JW: Non-NBA players get an opportunity to go out there and show their talent and represent their city, and just go out there and compete. You know, show how hard they're working and show that they really want to represent where they're from, put their city on the map and go out there against other talented players and get an opportunity to be known nationally.
B/R: This competition is different, since players aren't playing for a tangible prize. How do you think that affects the level of competition seen?
JW: It's your pride, you know what I mean? It's not about the prizes and the money and things like that. If people really love their city and want to put their city on the map, this is a pride thing. You just have to go out there and play basketball; play the right way.
You got guys who played in college leagues, and some guys are some of the top players overseas, D-League guys, streetball guys who you've probably seen on DVDs and stuff, getting an opportunity to go out there and see how they play organized basketball, and try to see if we have the best basketball players in the city for that one year.
B/R: You were involved [as a talent scout] with the Washington team. What do you expect to see from those group of guys?
JW: Great things. I've got mutual respect for those guys like they have for me. I just love the game of basketball, and I think there's a lot of talent out there; a lot of guys competing. There's a lot of guys in D.C. who you probably wouldn't have heard of, but I've probably seen just going to the summer leagues they have around.
I've seen a lot of those guys play this game, and I know they're very talented. You just want to see if they all can mesh together as a little group, a team and see if they can put their city on the map. I know those guys have a lot of pride and will put their city first before they do anything.
B/R: How did being involved with this competition personally impact you? What was your biggest takeaway from the whole process?
JW: It's the situation. I grew up known in my city, but I never had the opportunity to put myself forward or go out there and play nationally, and put my name out there and have bragging rights. I feel like those guys are kind of in my situation. My situation was to get me to be one of the best players in college basketball and high school, and get a chance to make the NBA.
I feel like these guys have the opportunity of doing it in a different way as grown men, and have the opportunity to represent their city and know they can say, "We're the best city or state in basketball, period" for that whole year.
B/R: Do you have any advice you would like to offer those participating in the Red Bull Midnight Run Finals?
JW: Best of luck. I appreciate the opportunity. Me and Red Bull have put forth effort to give you all an opportunity to display your talent. Go out there and play the game like you would play it—with heart and pride. Go out and represent your city like you do every night when you go play overseas or in the D-League. Show your characteristics and things like that. Best of luck, and I hope the best city wins it all.
*For more information on the Red Bull Midnight Run Finals, please visit the official website.