Former NBA defensive monster, enforcer and leader Ben Wallace is an eligible candidate for the NBA Hall Of Fame Class of 2017.
Now I’m just guessing, but it must have been a slow basketball day. Or the stations were already oversaturated with talks of Tracy McGrady, who also became eligible, because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tom Haberstroh shared their thoughts on if they believe Ben Wallace should be voted in.
McGrady was a freakish talent and mythically-skilled baller. He's almost a shoe-in as there isn't much competition this year. A.I. and Shaq went in last year and 2018 is Jason Kidd's year.
McGrady, the 6-foot-8 cousin of another future HOF baller Vince Carter, was a two-time scoring champion for the Magic in the early 2000's and a seven-time All-Star with Orlando and Houston as part of 15 injury-plagued seasons in which he never played 82 games. Only physical setbacks prevented McGrady from permanently re-defining the small forward/shooting guard position as he finished in the top 10 in scoring average six times, though is only 62nd on the career list for total points. He was first, second or third-team All-NBA seven times.
However, the question was Wallace's HOF worthiness, which is of course a much better debate topic.
Kareem chose to not even directly address the question but instead educate the folks who came up with this question as to why he can’t even begin to fathom the possibility of Ben Wallace retiring in the same edifice as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader.
He kept it respectful though. But he did clown Wallace a bit.
“This is a blue collar guy who goes out there and works in the trenches,” said Kareem. “He’s not very pretty and doesn’t have a whole lot of flashy stats, but you end up winning games with guys like that. I played with a lot of guys like that...Mitch Kupchak and a guy named Rambis. They make things happen...usually there were a lot of nights where they got bruises.”
Kareem, in his right mind and still with all of his faculties, couldn’t make a case for Wallace as a member of what should be a very exclusive Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jabbar actually compared Wallace to several hard-nosed, non-athletic white players who were more known for their grit and foul accumulation than any captivating offensive contributions to the game.
That in itself is somewhat of a diss and lets you know where the man formerly known as Lewis Alcindor resides on that issue.
With all due respect to Wallace and his afro-rocking, head-knocking, lunch-pail, championship contributions to the revival of Detroit Pistons basketball, he would be my fourth pick from those mid-2000 Piston squads to be considered -- after RIP and Chauncey and Sheed of course. Wallace and Wallace often get clumped together because of their similarly explosive personalities, but Sheed had mad skills and an offensive game that he could hop out of bed and get off.
Career averages of 5.7 ppg and 9.6 rebounds per game are not going to cut it. Even taking into account his impact on the city, the team and his contributions to The Malice at the Palace -- which will forever go down as one of the most gangster, electrifying, dangerous and totally embarrassing moments in NBA history -- Wallace and his seven straight seasons of averaging 10 or more boards doesn’t make the grade.
Kareem couldn’t find much to say about Wallace. The notion itself probably twisted the big man’s stomach into knots.
The younger Haberstroh, on the other hand, made a strong case for Big Ben who ascended from Virginia Union to become a four-time NBA All-Star and the pugnacious, inspirational heart and soul of that 2004 Pistons squad that squashed the Shaq-Kobe Lakers Dynasty forever.
Haberstroh compared Wallace’s defensive-mindedness to 2015 HOF inductee Dikembe Mutombo’s career.
Supporting Haberstroh’s argument was a graphic comparing the two players by number of Defensive Player of the Year Awards (Both have 4), 1st-Team All-Defense selections (Wallace has 5 and Dikembe 3), All-NBA Teams (Wallace 5, Dikembe 3) and titles (Dikembe has none, but he was a champion for an entire continent).
“Ben Wallace’s stats match up very nicely with him, also Dennis Rodman…,” said Haberstroh. “I think defensively, Ben Wallace is one of the best players of this era and what he did to Shaq defensively in that 2004 Finals, if you look at those highlights, it’s crazy the stuff he was doing against Shaq who is twice the size of him.”
Kareem just kept glancing at the young boy out the side of his eye and you could see he thought he was in the Twilight Zone.
Statistics can be deceiving because different eras require different styles of play. There aren’t too many NBA guys banging and frolicking in the trenches with the sole purpose of rebounding and defending on every play.
Wallace was one of those guys. Big Ben may be the last of his ilk. That’s something to acknowledge.
He was a gladiator who rose to a seat on the high council of the NBA. He’s already had his jersey retired by the Pistons in January. He’s just not a Hall of Famer and there’s nothing wrong with that.