For Sessions, a new regular feature, ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson sits down with the big names in sports for an in-depth interview about life beyond just the game. This time he met up in Chicago with John Wall of the Washington Wizards, whom Scoop has known since Wall was in high school. Wall opens up about having to understand manhood at the age of 9, dealing with overcoming setbacks and the best advice LeBron James ever gave him.
Scoop: What's more important, having great talent or having a high basketball IQ?
Wall: To me, I think high basketball IQ. I mean, you can be talented, and they always say hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. But I think IQ, man, you can't really figure that out throughout a game. You got guys that can read things and learn them quicker and know things about the game that you just can't learn right away. But when you don't have a high basketball IQ, it takes you a lot longer to learn plays, to learn defensive concepts and basically you don't know what to do half of the time you are out there. So I'll take IQ over talent.
Scoop: How much has your IQ, let me put it this way, "changed" or "grown" since you entered the NBA?
Wall: I think me just playing with people that wanna win and know the game being with me helped my IQ. It's changed a whole lot. How I'm reading and seeing the game now. It's kinda what I was saying in my rookie and second year, but certain guys I was playing with didn't see it that way. They had talent, but they didn't have [high] IQ. So that kinda hurt me in making my game look bad, and I also had to develop myself at the same time.
Scoop: Is that something that can be learned? Like, can you work on getting smarter, or do you simply work on getting better as a player?
Wall: I think it can, and I think you can do both. Because in the summertime I work out a lot and work on getting better in my game and improving on certain areas that I'm bad at but at the same time I'm watching film to better my IQ. So I think you've got to do both if you want to be a great player in this league.
Scoop: I love asking people that I know that I haven't seen in a while how much they feel that they've changed over the years.
Wall: Oh, I've changed a whole lot, man. I've grown a lot, matured. I've always been mature for my age ?
Wall: ? and me having older sisters and having to become the man of the house at 9 [years old]. So everything with me has changed. Off the court, I think I've matured in a way that helps me handle my business in marketing myself and me having a better image. And on the court, I think I've developed every season by watching more film and getting healthier. This is my first season playing all 82 games, so knowing how to take care of my body and stay healthy, playing and becoming a better leader, not just by example but more vocal. Yeah, I've changed. (laugh)
Scoop: You know they say in this game, injuries and trades change people more than anything.
Scoop: How did your [knee] injury change the way you look at the game and the way you now approach it?