We took a look at the Detroit Pistons of the early and mid-2000s and shed some light on Ben Wallace’s comments about Carmelo Anthony. While Ben Wallace has been in the media recently for this opinion, Ben Wallace has actually been in the media around this time of year for the last few years. Why you might ask? Ben Wallace is the NBA’s, Mike Mussina. A solid player who was good at what he did and played big roles for contending teams that are borderline Hall of Famers. This past week, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and the late Kobe Bryant were announced as this year’s class of Hall of Fame entrants. Nobody will argue that Ben Wallace deserved to be in over them, but Wallace has been waiting for his call for the last few years. Analysts and former players have all chimed in, and the majority of them seem to think that the NBA’s Big Ben deserves to be in. But among fans and even some of the media members are those who think otherwise. So does Ben Wallace belong in Springfield?
Ben Wallace, hailing from Alabama, played his college basketball at Virginia Union University, a D2 school. After going undrafted, Wallace made the Wizards team but only managed to play in 34 games. In his second year, he played 67 games, but still only managed to average a measly 3.1ppg, 4.8rpg, but his 1.6bpg did catch some eyes and he would solidify himself as a defensive force. He would average 6ppg, 8.3rpg, and 2 blocks the next year during the lockout-shortened season. The next season saw him in Orlando where he started in 81 games and averaged 4.8ppg, 8.2rpg, and 1.6bpg. The next season would change Wallace’s career. He would end up being traded to Detroit in a package for Grant Hill. The next two seasons (00-01, 01-02) were continued improvements for Wallace as he increased his scoring to 7.6 and finished 2nd and 1st in rebounds during those years with 13.2rpg and 13rpg respectively.
During those two years, Wallace also averaged 2.3bpg and 3.5bpg. After the 01-02 season, Wallace was named the Defensive Player of the Year Award and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team as well as the All-NBA Third Team. The following year, he won yet another Defensive Player of the Year Award and in his second year in the playoffs, averaged 16.3rpg and was a series away from making the finals.
Now recognized as one of the best defenders in the league and now on a winning team, things were looking great for Big Ben. In the 03-04 season, Wallace made another All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Second Team. He now averaged 9.5ppg, 12.4rpg, and 3.bpg. Along with new addition Rasheed Wallace, and an up and coming Tayshaun Prince, they led a stifling defense and eventually defeated the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers to capture Wallace’s only ring. Making this all the more impressive was the fact that the Lakers, coming off of a threepeat, had an offense led by one of if not the most dominant forces the game had ever seen, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant, another arguably top 5 player in the league at the time. The Lakers did have some chemistry issues but Wallace was key in containing O’Neal, the Lakers offensive focal point. In the following year, during their stand to repeat as champions, Wallace notched himself another Defensive Player of the Year Award and another All-Defensive First Team selection and another All-NBA Third Team nod. The Pistons turned to Wallace to once again hold his own against O’Neal, who was now on the Heat, and made their way to the finals to face the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, led by the aforementioned Tim Duncan, captured their third championship. The Pistons decided to run it back one more time. In his last season as a Piston, Wallace won his 4th Defensive Player of the Year Award, the Pistons made it to the conference finals, only to fall to the eventual champion Miami Heat.
Wallace ends up having a few more solid seasons, but as he bounced around Chicago, and Cleveland before eventually returning to Detroit, father time starts to creep up. And father time is still undefeated. Wallace never wins another Defensive Player of the Year Award, or makes an All-NBA Team. During his prime years, the 6 years he played in Detroit, he won 4 Defensive Player of the Year Awards, made 5 All-NBA Teams, and was All-Defensive First Team 5 times. He averaged 7.9ppg, 12.9rpg, and 2.8bpg and his impact on his team and the game as a culture changer and an enforcer goes beyond the stats. And I get the voters do not just look at numbers and they look at things like importance to the team, and winning.
But if you look at the other years of his career, they are just solid, nothing more. For the last 6 years of his career, he averaged 4.2ppg, 7.7rpg, and 1.4bpg. Include the first few years of his career, and he comes out with averages of 5.7ppg, 11.rpg, and 2bpg. If you look at win shares, for example, his numbers compare to the likes of Glen Rice, Carlos Boozer, and Anthony Mason. All are very good and even iconic players. But they all have one thing in common. None of them have gotten the call that Wallace has long been waiting for. Now, Wallace does have some very impressive numbers to support him. He is 17th all-time in defensive win shares, 5th all-time in defensive +/-, 13th in blocks, 17th in offensive rebounds, and 25th in defensive rebounds.
I remember watching Ben Wallace play. It was daunting watching your favorite team or players trying to score on a defense that was anchored by one of the greatest shot blockers ever. But that was during his prime, and that seems to be the problem for those that believe he is not a Hall of Famer. His prime was short. Too short. He was elite defensively. One of the all-time greats on that end of the floor. But with only 4.2ppg over his career, and little to no impact on the offensive side of the ball besides offensive rebounds, it seems like a tough challenge for the former beloved Piston to make it into the Hall of Fame. I do believe that voters need to place a heavier emphasis on defensive when looking at candidates, and if you told me that Ben Wallace got into the Hall of Fame because of some of those defensive stats and the ring, I wouldn’t be going crazy. There are players in the Hall of Fame that may deserve to be there even less than Wallace so I get it.
But maybe therein lies the actual problem. Whether it’s in the NFL or MLB or NHL, the voters are tasked with a very difficult challenge every year. Say they agree to induct a player that maybe should not have belonged in the Hall of Fame. Then players of similar stature are now expected to be in there with said player. That can lead to an oversaturation and a lowered standard. And that leads to questions about what the Hall of Fame really stands for. Is it a place to commemorate players who had good careers, or a place where only the greatest to ever do it belong. In the NBA, players like Shawn Kemp and Chris Weber are just a few of the names that people think should be in there. And while Ben Wallace is on the fence, and I wouldn’t mind if he got in, I don’t see it happening. As long as there are different views of what the standard is for the Hall of Fame, we will continue to see discussions on who belongs and who