Which NBA Player Is Facing The Most Pressure Next Season?

07.23.12 5 years ago
John Wall

John Wall (photo. Douglas Sonders)

Who is facing the most pressure next season and why? Answer this question in the comments below and you could find yourself featured in the next issue of Dime Magazine…

Depending on who you are and what your makeup is, pressure is palpable. You can feel it. It can emerge in your stomach, flutter, and get your hands shaking. Or… it can be liberating. You can sense it, grip it by the throat, and realize pressure in itself can’t stop you. Only shying in the face of expectations will.

Of course, real pressure doesn’t come on the hardwood. One of my closest friends from college was in a car accident over the weekend. His friends’ ride flipped over on the highway, and for a few moments before hearing all of the details (he’ll be fine after some relatively minor surgery), I sensed that terrible feeling beginning to tighten in my stomach. Real pressure, life pressure, is 100 times more aggressive than its baby cousin, which is what we’re dealing with here.

NBA players face all kinds of tension playing basketball. They make millions to entertain, and their performances come in front of millions of people worldwide. If they screw up or fail to deliver, an entire fanbase can sometimes turn against them. They’re prisoners of their own fame, and the bigger the fame, the more people expect of you.

I’ve written before that I don’t really agree with the term clutch… at least, not in the same sense everyone else does. But pressure? There’s no denying it’s existence. Clutch brings with it too many regulations and formalities. Too often we group players into two categories – whether you’re clutch or whether you aren’t – when in reality, responding to pressure is so much more complex. Sometimes it isn’t about making the last shot; it’s about having the guts to take it. Sometimes it’ll go in. But as Kobe and Michael have shown us over the years, more often than not, it won’t.

Pressure might be most commonly produced during the final moments of a close game. But actually, it’s everywhere. And for some players, they must face it every single game, every minute, every day of the season. John Wall is one of those players.

When we put Wall on the cover of Dime #70, we knew what we were doing: only adding to the pressure that WE help spearhead last summer. Wall has had a solid two seasons in the NBA, but as a No. 1 pick, he’s facing real expectations that only get crazier every time Derrick Rose wins an MVP award or every time Russell Westbrook helps lead his team deep into the playoffs. Wall has to match them, and the ensuing forecasts are very blatant.

The former Kentucky guard now has talent around him, and people in Washington, D.C. are talking playoffs. Wall also has the dubious label of being, statistically, the second-worst midrange shooter amongst starting-caliber guards in the entire NBA. He has a lot to prove next season. But he isn’t the only one.

Despite the championship, LeBron still faces doubters on whether he has the killer in him. A ring won’t stop people from criticizing him. One title will only stroke the fire.

Dion Waiters might only be a rookie, but he was a surprising No. 4 pick, and talks a good game about how ready he is for the NBA. Even in the wasteland of Cleveland, the talons of promise will be ready to tear into him if he falters.

Then, there’s Derrick Rose, who’ll face the pressure of mortality. Will he overcome his knee injury? Will he be the same? Can we still consider him the future of the NBA?

Kevin Durant. Carmelo Anthony. Kobe Bryant. Russell Westbrook. Anthony Davis. Austin Rivers. Dwight Howard. The Brooklyn Nets entire organization. These are all just a few names that’ll be facing a lot come the start of the 2012-13 season. There will be many others as well. Pressure will be there for all of them. Some will survive it. Others won’t. As Wall told me this summer, “I want to be the savior” in the nation’s capital. As I wanted to tell Wall, the higher you aim, the longer the fall can be.

Who is facing the most pressure next season and why? Answer this question in the comments below and you could find yourself featured in the next issue of Dime Magazine…

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