John Wall someday owning franchise records as a member of the Washington Wizards became a distinct possibility the moment they - along with Irene Pollin - won the NBA Draft lottery back in 2010. After suffering through a second consecutive last-place season, the Wizards earned the right to add a transformational talent to their franchise.
Wall was a once-in-a-generation mix of physical gifts and mental makeup: a point guard rare in his size at 6-foot-4, with prodigious speed to match, and a pass-first mentality in an age where most just want to shoot. He could zoom up the court faster than anyone and find open teammates. Even if it required leaping in the lane and contorting his body to fire off a pass, he had an innate ability to set up open looks.
Some players learn to pass at an elite level, but for Wall it came naturally. From his very first game, he was seeing things others were not.
He took the court in Orlando on Oct. 28 of 2010 clad in blue and gold, danced his way through pregame introductions and proceeded to dish nine assists in his professional debut. From there began an illustrious career that seven years in has him firmly established as one of the best players in the game.
On Monday night at the Verizon Center, Wall reached a milestone that was long a foregone conclusion. With a fastbreak dime to Bradley Beal in the third quarter against the Houston Rockets, Wall set a new franchise record for career assists. He topped Wes Unseld, a man whom following his career was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, an honor Wall could someday earn himself.
The only problem with this particular accomplishment was the night on which it occurred. Wall's Wizards let another winnable game slip away in the fourth quarter and fell to 1-5 on the season. Wall played well himself with 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds, but turned the ball over six times and was ejected in the final minute after receiving a second technical foul.
It's hard to celebrate an accomplishment after a game like that, but the significance wasn't lost on the Wizards star.
"It's an honor," he said. "It's great. It's cool. But it would have been more fun with a win."
Wall has averaged nine assists in his career despite never playing alongside a teammate who made the All-Star team. Wall himself has made three All-Star appearances and it's largely because of his passing.
That part of his game is not lost on his teammates.
"He's always been a pass-first point guard. It makes our job easier," forward Otto Porter said. "He can get out and run and get his assists. Then, when everyone collapses on him, he's definitely looking to hit that open guy."
Wall, 26, has a long career ahead of him and that also played into his reaction to breaking Unseld's record. Despite already having 3,827 assists in the NBA to his name, Wall wants and expects to accrue many more before it's all said and done.
"It don't mean nothing to me right now because I didn't win the game," he said. "And I have a lot of basketball left to play."
Only six players in NBA history have averaged as many assists as Wall (9.0 per game) with at least 400 games played. Four of those are Hall of Famers: Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas and another (Chris Paul) will get there someday.