The Washington Wizards have emerged as a serious contender in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, thanks in part to point guard John Wall. Drafted first overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, the speedy NBA All-Star is a blur on the court and deft at distributing the ball to teammates consistently. When the Raleigh, NC native isn’t on the hardwoods of the NBA, he can be found with a video game controller in his hands playing NBA 2K15, Madden NFL 15 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Wall talks about his love of video games, how technology is helping his team perform better, and why eSports is similar to basketball in this exclusive interview.
What are your thoughts about how far video games have come from when you were a kid?
Oh, they’re amazing. I think the systems are getting better with different graphics. They’re looking more realistic, like real-life HD movies, and it’s a lot more fun. In the past there were glitches like on Madden, where I could run punt returns back all day. And now they’re making it more realistic, where it looks and plays like real life.
Can you give us a sense of how much you get to play video games during the off season, and how that changes once the season starts up?
Forget the offseason. During the season after practice I’m always sitting at home. Either I’m watching basketball games—and during breaks of those or before they come on—I’m playing video games. Even on the road I’m playing video games a lot, when I have a lot of free time. So I stick to video games. I love video games.
When it comes to playing video games in Washington, what set-up do the Wizards have?
We don’t have it in our locker room, but we have a player lounge where we got all the games set up. It’s a great area to go to before – if you can get there early — or after practice. You can just chill, talk it up, play cards, play video games. Play pool. All those types of things. So it is great fun for us.
How big a role does the release of the new NBA Live 15 and NBA 2K15 games player ratings play in the locker room?
It’s fun. It’s just like every year you want to see if your status went up. You might not have been as good last year. You think you should have been better. So that gives you more motivation to work out in the summer time to try to improve and get your status bigger and better, so when you play the video game you can be like your real self.
Are you happy with how your stats have improved over the years?
Somewhat, they don’t let me dunk enough in the game.
What impact does the incorporation of real NBA player stats through regular updates into the NBA video games have on both the realism of the video games and as an incentive for players to perform better?
I am a huge NBA 2K fan and play as much as I can at home and on the road. It’s amazing to see how real we look in the game. In terms of the stats being updated consistently, I am a big fan. Numbers don’t lie!
A lot of people think NBA players are always playing NBA 2K, but where do you feel Call of Duty ranks when it comes to games?
Well, I mean especially with the new Call of Duty coming out, you’re always anticipating to beat new games. Like with NBA 2K and Madden and those type of sports games, you don’t have an opportunity to beat those games one-on-one to make it a challenge for improvement. You’re just playing basketball, something that we love to do and it’s easy to do. I think Call of Duty gets to the top of the list because this shooting game is a more action game where you can play more as team players and try and go over there and conquer the world.
Do you have a favorite Call of Duty memory that stands out?
Mine is the first time I ever got to play it. I was getting mad and frustrated because I couldn’t get through it and kept getting killed, but other than that the fact that you can be up all night. One time when I first started playing it, I stayed up for a whole day straight trying to beat it. And finally I just shut it down and said, “Forget this. I can’t win.”
When it comes to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, what are you looking forward to?
I’m excited about the Exoskeleton, but I’m also excited about the grenade types on-the-fly. I think that’s more exciting because sometimes you only can use one grenade and if somebody’s coming after me, I’m trying to switch it up and throw one at him before he can throw one at me.
The Call of Duty Championship has given away $3 million to the best Call of Duty gamers over the past three years. What are your thoughts as a professional athlete about eSports players making money playing a video game?
Oh, I think it’s great. It’s exciting for them. That shows the people that are very dedicated. I mean I’m dedicated to getting better with my game. People are dedicated to study and get all the spots and knowing how to use the game in different variations to make their game improve. So I know guys that take it very, very personally and they turn red. They’d be ready to break the TV screen when they lose and things like that.
How do you feel the team-based aspect of Call of Duty eSports compares to what you guys do on a basketball court?
I think that’s great playing as teams. Sometimes with my team we play individually, but sometimes we’ll team up four or five and try to go against another group of guys that might be other teammates and talk junk to them and see who can get the most kills and who has bragging rights in practice. So it’s fun to be able to have teams because you can’t play games — or you can do stuff individually with your individual Ghost — but you have to do a lot of things as a team. It’s starting to build the team camaraderie and stuff.