Ben Wallace has been elected to join the 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The undrafted “Big Ben,” from Division II Virginia Union University didn’t get his name called on Draft night back in 1996, but that didn’t stop him.
It may have defined him.
He saw his first NBA action with the Washington Bullets after some time in Italy. Yes, it has been that long ago, but after three years in Washington he moved to Orlando. He was traded alongside Chucky Atkins to the Detroit Pistons in 2000 from Orlando in exchange for Grant Hill.
Detroit is where is where he flourished. From the 2000-01 to the 2005-06 season, he started every game that he appeared in. He made his name and his trademark with that fierce look in his eyes that could break a lesser man’s jaw, that muscular build, that #3 (that now hangs in the rafters) and that ‘Fro.
FEAR THE ‘FRO
A dominant force in the paint, Ben Wallace was the epitome of the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons. It was in Detroit where he became the anchor of that ’04 title team. It was in Detroit where he was a four-time All-Star without ever averaging double-digits in scoring. It was in Detroit that he was six-times All-Defense, five-times All-NBA, four-times Defensive Player of the Year, two-time rebounding leader and the 2001-02 blocks leader. Big Ben did all of that playing the center position at a listed 6-foot-9.
For those that question Ben Wallace’s nod into the Hall, I have to question you. What were you watching? Do you believe the only element of basketball is points per game? Did you not witness how Ben Wallace, teamed with Rasheed Wallace, created a “No Fly Zone” in the paint? Did you not see how one man can affect every level of the game, all within six-feet from the basket? Did you not see how one man can impact the culture of the game? Did you not see fake afros and real afros alike taking the league by storm?
My question when it comes to the Hall of Fame is simple and spans across every sport: Can you tell the story of the game without the player? I’m not sure you can tell the NBA story without the tale of how the Detroit Pistons made six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals from the 2001-02 season to 2006-07, including that ’04 Championship and the “Five Game Sweep” against Kobe and Shaq’s LA Lakers.
BIG BEN DEFINED THE D
Big Ben was the heart and soul of that team. 92.2, 87.7, 84.3, 89.5, 90.2, 91.8. Those six numbers are the opponents’ average points per game against the Detroit Pistons during that six-year year stretch. Almost unimaginable from today’s standards, but Ben Wallace with his ferocity, grit, hard work and relentless effort was the spirit of that defense.
Ben Wallace is to Detroit as William Wallace is to Scotland. Coincidence in the name? I think not. Ben is the only player in NBA history to record more blocks (2,137) than fouls (2,078) and more steals (1,369) than turnovers (1,061) in his entire career.
I know we are flooded with highlights of 3s, dunks, jumpers. I know we obsess over points per game and “how many did he have” in our conversations, but sometimes in life it’s about the motor of that vehicle not necessarily the driver. Ben might be the only member of the Hall to average less than six points per game, but guess what? His impact was visible to the eye, it showed up in the other categories like rebounds, blocks, steals, and if there was a way to quantify intimidation, he would’ve led that category too.
So my question for those who say he doesn’t belong: what were you watching?
Fear The Fro image from Pistons.com