Undrafted.....to the Hall of Fame.
When Ben Wallace puts on that jacket in Springfield in September, he will go down as the first undrafted player ever to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Getting to the Hall of Fame is one thing, but to do so after being overlooked early in his career is a testament to the grind Wallace put in over his 16-year career.
Standing at 6-foot-9, playing center in an era of 'true' big men, Wallace played way above his size, using his physicality, defensive instincts and 240 pounds of muscle to mix it with the league's best bigs on his way to winning four Defensive Player of the Year awards (2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006).
He spent nine of his 16 seasons in Detroit, with career averages of 5.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and two blocks in 29.5 minutes per game, with his 1,088 career games a record for an undrafted player.
Wallace's game was always for the betterment of the team and 17 years on from winning the 2004 NBA championship, he becomes the first player from that team to enter the Hall of Fame.
After attending Cuyahoga Community College and transferring to D-II Virginia Union, Wallace's name wasn't called on draft night and after going to Italy for a tryout, he found his way into the NBA with the Washington Bullets in 1996-97.
From there, he never looked back and became the first undrafted player to be voted an All-Star starter, with his four All-Star appearances the most by any undrafted player.
"That part means the most, because I look at my story as an inspiration, not just for up-and-coming basketball players or athletes. It's a story that everybody can tap into, no matter what, no matter what job or career path you choose. If you put in that work and you work hard, you're honest with yourself about it, good things will happen," Wallace said.
The 1996 NBA Draft, listed by many as the best draft class ever boasts four Hall of Famers in Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Ray Allen and now Wallace adds to that legacy. The depth of that draft class is legendary and the fact that Wallace had the career he had despite being undrafted is a testament to that.
A Hall of Fame resume
In a league that so often rewards scoring and superstar status for offensive players, Ben Wallace's resume stacks up against many others despite his career average of 5.7 points per game.
With his hard hat approach to the game, Wallace anchored one of the meanest defences in NBA history as the Pistons routinely held teams to 60, 70 points a contest - almost unthinkable in today's free-scoring game.
Wallace was an instant hit in Detroit, leading the Pistons in rebounds, blocked shots, and steals in his first season and the following year won the first of his four Defensive Player of the Year awards, becoming the third player in history to lead the league in both rebounds and steals that season.
His four DPOYs are tied for the most ever with Dikembe Mutombo, adding four All-Star appearances, five All-NBA selections (three second-teams, two third-teams), five All-Defensive first-team selections (2002-06) and one second team selection (2007).
Despite being undersized at his position, Wallace led the league in blocks for one season (2002) and rebounding twice (2002, 2003).
Shining on the playoff stage
The crowning achievement of Wallace's career came in 2004 as the starting center for the Detroit Pistons who won the NBA championship against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were coming off three titles in the past four seasons.
Despite the Lakers holding home-court advantage and being heavily favoured to win the Finals, the Pistons emerged victorious 4-1, thanks in large part to Wallace's work against Shaquille O'Neal.
Through the five games, Wallace averaged 10.8 points, 13.6 rebounds 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. In the series-clinching Game 5 win, he outplayed O'Neal with 18 points and 22 rebounds to O'Neal's 20 points and eight rebounds.
In the second round of that playoff run against the Nets, Wallace delivered a monster game, helping the Pistons stave off elimination.
After the Nets stormed back to a 3-2 series lead after trailing 0-2, Wallace hauled in 20 rebounds including nine on the offensive end, three assists, two steals to go with two points to force Game 7 and he was the best player in the floor in that series-clinching win, flying for loose balls, keeping possessions alive and propelling the Pistons to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Wallace averaged 7.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks across 130 playoff appearances in his career, with his stint in Detroit resulting in six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, including two trips to the NBA Finals.
Wallace's journey from almost missing out on a chance at the NBA to taking it with two hands, is a story of determination, hard work and perseverance as the now 46-year-old caps off his remarkable career joining the game's greats in Springfield.
He will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame on September 11, 2021, alongside NBA legends Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and Chris Webber.
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