Ben Wallace is one of the most accomplished players in NBA history, but his journey to the Hall of Fame began with a pair of unfortunate cuts.
Ben Wallace is a retired NBA player who played for the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons. His Hall of Fame Journey began by getting cut twice, but he continued to work hard and eventually became one of the most successful players in the league.
On Sept. 11, 2021, Ben Wallace became the fifth member of the storied 1996 NBA Draft class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Wallace, however, was not among the NBA players selected in the draft, unlike the other four legends. Springfield had five of the first 15 selections in the draft, headed by No. 1 overall pick Allen Iverson. Ray Allen (fifth overall), Kobe Bryant (thirteenth), and Steve Nash are the others (15th).
At least one All-Star Game appearance was made by ten players. Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovi, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were also chosen. On June 26, 1996, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, 58 players were chosen, although not all of them were stars. Dontae’ Jones, Efthimios Rentzias, Martin Müürsepp, and Priest Lauderdale were among the noteworthy misses in the opening round. Eleven of the players selected in Round 2 have never appeared in an NBA game.
Wallace was not a good enough potential to be chosen above the others.
Ben Wallace’s lengthy journey began with modest beginnings.
Ben Wallace disproved the skeptics and then some. Only four players selected in 1996 played in more NBA games than Wallace (1,088). (Bryant, Allen, Nash, and Derek Fisher). Bryant, Allen, Nash, and Iverson were the only players with more than 93.5 Win Shares.
Wallace played two years at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland before moving to Division II Virginia Union for his last two seasons after graduating from Central High School in Hayneville, Alabama, in 1992. Wallace was a first-team All-American as a senior, but the NBA passed him over on draft night.
Wallace drew the attention of one NBA club. And although he left an impact, it wasn’t strong enough.
Wallace washed out in Europe after failing to make it out of a summer league appearance.
Ben Wallace was one of 20 players invited to the Boston Celtics rookie camp at Brandeis University in July 1996, according to The Boston Globe. There was a huge difference in the number of people that showed there. Antoine Walker, a first-round pick, and Steve Hamer, a second-round pick, were both there. Future NBA stars Isaac Austin, Kevin Ollie, and Kevin Salvadori, as well as NBA veterans Jeff Grayer, Ray Jackson, and Adonis Jordan, were all in attendance.
Wallace’s rebounding pleased coach/general manager M.L. Carr. Wallace was one of 15 players sent to a rookie league in New York, according to the Boston Globe, but he didn’t make the cut.
What would his career have been like if Carr had recognized his potential? Carr did, however, have the franchise’s worst season in 1996–97, a 15-win catastrophe that resulted in Rick Pitino taking over both responsibilities.
Wallace traveled to Italy for a tryout with Viola Reggio Calabria after being released by Boston. That team, too, was not impressed enough to sign him. The Washington Bullets eventually invited him to training camp, and he went on to have a 16-year NBA career.
Not bad for a Serie A washout from Lega Basket.
Ben Wallace took full use of his chance.
In 1996, Ben Wallace (3) received his first taste of the NBA in a Boston Celtics rookie camp, but he didn’t make the team. | Getty Images/Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald
Ben Wallace joined the Bullets in 1996, joining a crowded frontcourt that included former Fab Five members Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, veteran Harvey Grant, and reigning Most Improved Player Award winner Gheorghe Mureșan. Washington qualified for the playoffs with a 44–38 record before being swept in a difficult first-round series by the reigning champion Chicago Bulls.
Wallace’s role increased over the following two seasons after he only played 197 minutes as a rookie, earning him his first large deal. Before being included in the deal transferred to the Detroit Pistons in the summer of 2000, he received $34 million from the Orlando Magic over six seasons. The Magic signed free agency superstar Grant Hill in a sign-and-trade deal that didn’t go as planned.
In Detroit, Big Ben thrived. Despite producing almost little scoring, he was named Defensive Player of the Year four times and a five-time All-NBA pick. He wasn’t required to. Wallace was a key member of a Pistons defense that appeared in four consecutive Eastern Conference Finals from 2003 to 2006, advanced to the NBA Finals in 2004 and 2005, and won the championship in 2004 against a highly fancied Los Angeles Lakers club.
Ben Wallace fought his way to Springfield on the strength of his rebounding and defensive skills, despite averaging just 5.7 points per game in his career, the lowest ever for a Hall of Famer.
Basketball Reference and USBasket.com provided statistics, while Spotrac provided contract information.
Ben Wallace is a Hall of Famer, but His Signature Shoe Should Be in the Hall of Shame
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