The Detroit Pistons recently retired the number of their longtime center, Ben Wallace. I don’t think it was coincidence either that the Pistons played some pretty scrappy defense in a win over the defending champs that very night.
Ben Wallace was an all-star four times, an NBA champion in 2004, and is tied for the most Defensive Player of the Year awards ever with Dikembe Mutumbo. Standing at 6’9, Wallace was short for the center position, but his relentless work ethic and workhorse mentality on the court allowed him to play much bigger than he was. He is only one a few players I have ever seen that could dominate a game without being a big scorer (I believe he has just over 6,000 career points). His rebounding and shot-locking are what made him such a force.
If you watch highlights of the 2004 Pistons, you’ll see how big of an impact he had in the Finals against the heavily favored Lakers. What really impressed me about Big Ben and I think is a testament to his mentality, is that he took upon himself to guard Shaquille O’Neal by himself. O’Neal, who outweighed Wallace by nearly 100 pounds and had roughly 4 inches on him, always had issues with Wallace, who’s strong base and will gave him relative success against Shaq.
The NBA has missed Ben Wallace greatly. There aren’t any players like him anymore that play with the same intensity and toughness. He made it a reality that you don’t have to score a lot of points to be a great player. The video below shows Wallace in Game 5 of the 2004 Finals. He had an uncharacteristically high 18 points, but had 22 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end. He also had a block and 3 steals. Video credit to: LamarMatic