John Wall keeps a list of slights and criticisms on his phone for motivation

Sep 29, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) poses for a portrait during Wizards Media Day at Verizon Center. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Sep 29, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) poses for a portrait during Wizards Media Day at Verizon Center. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Sports teams have a long relationship with "bulletin board material" – certain quotes and comments of criticism or arrogance that compel a feeling of disrespect. The idea is that feeling slighted can inspire great performances and continued excellence.

It doesn't matter if plenty of people (or more of them) say complimentary things, too. Logic isn't the point — it's all about getting yourself to feel like you have something to prove to the world. These efforts usually aren't even particularly organized, and it might be enough just to hear of a remark through the media grapevine or even get so paranoid as to imagine this negativity exists without any real proof.

Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall has decided to take a more systematic approach to feeling like an underdog. From Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (via Bullets Forever):

John Wall keeps a list on his phone of the slights and criticism he hears, reads and perceives. He updates it whenever he comes across a new form of disrespect and reads it for motivation before he steps on the floor for every practice and game.

The list was dominated by shots at his injury woes and leadership skills his first three seasons. Wall finally produced the breakout season many were waiting for last season, becoming an All-Star and leading his team to the postseason for the first time, but the list of slights continues to expand. The latest were added this summer when he was the first of the five point guards cut at Team USA’s FIBA World Cup training camp. Then Sports Illustrated ranked him as the 31st-best player in the NBA.

Those contributed to Wall’s belief that, for whatever reason, he is underrated and unappreciated in the pantheon of NBA point guards as he enters his fifth professional season.

“I’m one of the most complete point guards in the league,” Wall, 24, said Tuesday after the Washington Wizards concluded their first training camp practice. “I rebound, I assist, play defense, steal, score. I don’t get why I’m overlooked. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

It figures that Wall will wonder why he's overlooked for quite some time, because the evidence suggests that he actively looks for these perceived slights as motivation. His place in the rankings isn't overwhelmingly fantastic — I think he deserves to be higher — but it's also hard to point out more than one or two mistakes ahead of him on the list. Plus, the write-up next to his No. 31 ranking notes that a few more years like his breakout campaign would vault Wall into the discussion of the league's best point guards. It's about his ability to reproduce last season more than its quality in isolation. There's plenty to see as a positive. The issue is that Wall isn't inclined to see things that way.

That approach is perfectly fine, because Wall's goal is to make himself the best basketball player he can be, not a measured analyst of his popularity around the league. Compiling a list of slights and reading it before every game is a fine course of action if it's what gets Wall to reach his considerable potential. That's a win for the Wizards and anyone who enjoys watching one of the most talented guards of his generation perform at an elite level.

If anything, we should praise Wall for realizing that he needs a whole system to remind himself to prove the doubters wrong. That kind of commitment is another sign that he's maturing and becoming the leader the Wizards expect.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!