It’s easy to forget Ben Wallace is still in the league. A backup Center for the Detroit Pistons, the 4 time NBA defensive player of the year can still conjure up something worth mentioning beyond the stat sheet, like his block on John Wall in the Pistons’ 99-94 win over the Washington Wizards.
Wallace, 37, actually started his NBA career back in 1996 with the Washington Bullets. Yes, he’s that old. But we mostly remember Wallace from his first Detroit tenure, carrying on from 2000-2006, before getting traded to the Chicago Bulls, where the decline began.
At his best, teamed up with Rasheed Wallace, Wallace was never a spectacular offensive player to watch. His career average of 5.8 points with 47.4% from the field, rather bad for a Center, shouldn’t impress anyone. But still, he found his name on four All-Star teams, not to mention Five NBA All-Defensive First teams. It’s that achievement, along with his four DPOY awards that make him a welcome figure in the hall of fame.
Yes, he was the initial cause for the Malice in the Palace, despite all the heat Ron Artest took. Wallace started the whole thing for nothing, no reason at all, out of frustration for losing to the Pacers at home and the rivalry that developed between the two teams at the time, slowly fading away as the Pacers fell apart. Both teams are back on the rise, each at its own pace, so who knows, maybe we’ll get it back.
Wallace, despite being 6’9, was a beast in the paint and under the hoop. He led the league in rebounding twice (2002, 2003) and averaged over 10 rebounds a night for his entire Detroit time + his first Bulls season, seven straight years. In 2002 he also led the league in blocks with 3.5, averaging 2 rejections a game throughout his career. His rebounds and blocks per minutes numbers are still not bad at all.
But it’s easy to forget, when a guy is 37, playing 15 minutes a game, averaging 1.4 points per game with the usual awful free throw shooting numbers (41.4% this season). He actually went 5-10 in the win over the Wizards, a season high for him in free throw attempts. His 5 points are tied for his third highest output this season. Yes, Wallace’s offense, completely relying on put backs and offensive rebounds, is that bad.
But numbers shouldn’t be the only reason to give a player a Hall of fame induction. Luckily, Wallace has his awards and All-NBA teams written down somewhere. Even if you forget how much of a pest he was for every big guy in the league, including Shaquille O’Neal in that 2004 NBA finals and a year later when Shaq was a Miami Heat player, there are always hints and clues, still lurking around, to make you remember.