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Inflatable Ben in action

We introduced you guys to the Inflatable Defender a couple of weeks ago, and today there's an interesting article about the product and the company behind it in the Detroit News. Neal Rubin spoke with Lee Lynch, president of PlayAir, about the inspiration of the product. Lynch had a lifesize cardboard cut-out of Michael Jordan in his office, which caught the eye of his 10-year-old grandson Liam.

[Liam] came in one day and said, "Oh, man, would I like to shoot over that." Doting grandpa that he is, Lynch folded it, took it home and set it up beneath a basket for Liam and his friends.

"Then they wrecked it," he says. But they had so much fun before they trampled Jordan into the asphalt that Lynch started thinking of alternatives.

You have to love any product conceived out of the idea of trampling Jordan into asphalt. . . but Inflatable Ben is not just for kids! Although my Defender has not yet arrived (and no, I'm not kidding -- I spoke with PlayAir VP Mike Sable last week, who graciously offered to send me one), my sister Caroline was able to get up close and personal with one -- her co-worker Don bought one last week and brought it into the office.

Inflatable Ben gets friendly with Caroline Inflatable Ben and Don

Inflatable Ben blocks out Stacey Inflatable Ben and Jeanine

Clockwise from the upper left, thanks to Caroline, Don, Jeanine and Stacey of Environmental Maintenence Engineers, Inc. for the great shots. For more pictures of Inflatable Ben in "action," head over to the Detroit Bad Boys Flickr group (which, by the way, is the perfect spot for you to share all of your Pistons-related pics!) But believe me, this isn't the last you've seen of our favorite vinyl Piston -- I'll be posting pictures of my own once he arrives in the mail.

Everything about this Ben Wallace is inflated -- except the ego [Detroit News]