Image: adidas

John Wall is not Derrick Rose.  He’s not Dwight Howard.  Hell, he’s not even Ricky Rubio at this point in terms of awareness and hype when he makes his long-awaited return to the hardwood this weekend (at the earliest).  So when Wall takes to the floor in adidas kicks, the return will be more about how he plays and how he fits in with the new-look but still struggling Washington Wizards and not about what he’s wearing.

Yes, it’s a different world out there for John Wall now in the sneaker game. But it’s really nothing new for him.

When Wall was selected first overall by the Wizards back in 2010, the situation he was walking into could not have been better suited for somebody who had savior-like talent.  Even though the D.C. area has not had much success basketball-wise over 30 years (sorry, MJ), some of the all-time greats are from D.C., including Hall of Famers like Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing and a current superstar that you all might know in Kevin Durant.  It was going to take a miracle to revive basketball in a city that has become enamored with football, baseball and even hockey, but with the right player, the sport could be relevant once again.  And for a lot of people, Wall was believed to be the catalyst for that change.

Reebok saw in Wall the same things they saw in Allen Iverson back in 1996; a transcendent player who could lead a team to the promised land while breaking ankles along the way (they actually saw the same things in LeBron James but were outbid by Nike in 2003).  It’s why they paid the money that they did (five years, $25 million) to land Wall.  With a game that captivated fans during his short stint in Kentucky and a dance that was built to make him a Youtube icon, it seemed like Wall had everything there on a silver platter.

But his excellent, albeit not mind-blowing, rookie campaign was overshadowed by a sea of Blake Griffin dunks.  His sophomore year was hampered by teaming up with some of the most uh, interesting characters in NBA history (JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, etc.), which led to the Wizards to having one of their worst records ever while also providing basketball blogs with enough material to last them a lifetime.  And in possibly the lowest point, Wall was selected 12th overall to last season’s Rising Stars Challenge – a game comprised of only first and second year players – despite leading sophomores in assists and ranking second in scoring behind only Griffin.  Oh, and then there was the knee injury to start this season.   Not good times for Wall or Reebok, really…

Those factors all contributed Wall’s inability to really sell his Reebok Zig Tech shoes (the look of the shoes is a eye of the beholder thing).  In a sad sign of the times, but not a full indictment on Wall’s ability to carry a brand, Reebok’s market share in basketball actually went down from 2.8% last fall to 1.6% now.  From firsthand experience, it was telling that I was seeing new colorways for Wall’s signature shoe, the Reebok Wall Season 3: ZigEscape, make their way to Foot Locker without any marketing or advance hype and his signature shoes from last season were hitting the discount rack often at 50% off their retail price.

So John Wall gets a chance to start anew with adidas.  It’s really a lateral move more than anything; adidas is Reebok’s parent company and Reebok is planning on focusing on their retro products and then going forth in a new direction in their performance lines.  With adidas really pushing their current products like the Crazy Light, adiZero Ghost and Crazy Shadow lines, Wall will fit in nicely with their products that are geared towards quicker players.   For adidas, it’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario.  Wall is still a talented player who has the ability to make something out of nothing and turn it into a highlight that will replayed over and over again.  And with the Wizards landing a potential star in Bradley Beal and solid veterans like Nene and Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor uh, Nene, things could be looking up finally in Washington.

Wall will not have the burden of having to carry an entire brand like he did with Reebok, but he still has enough name value that if he does turn things around in Washington, he could still rise above the ranks and join the likes of Rose, Howard and Rubio at the top of the adidas ladder.  Moving to adidas also affords him the opportunity to be featured in a variety of commercial campaigns that he otherwise would not have had with Reebok, such as being in ads for the NBA’s official uniforms or possibly a potential collaboration with Robert Griffin III, another Washington savior, if things go well.  Maybe they can even do that silly dance Wall made up together.  Nah…

Backcourt 2000 with Wall and Beal? It could happen….

Plenty of players had signature shoes that eventually fizzled out either due to being unable to keep up their level of play (Vince Carter) or a lack of interest from the public (Vince Carter).  Rare is the player like Kobe Bryant, who had a signature shoe with one brand and was able to keep the train moving (eventually) with another brand like Nike.  While the move is a little closer to home with adidas and Reebok, Wall will still face a monumental challenge of getting back in the minds of sneakerheads everywhere.  It’ll be nice to see him rocking the adidas Top Ten 2000 for a few games here and there, but the goal is to eventually carry a shoe once again like he did with Reebok.