Today is a great day for the Detroit Pistons organization. Today is the day we get to recognize the contributions of the driving force of our 2004 championship run, with the retirement of Ben Wallace's jersey tonight in a home game against the Golden State Warriors. I cannot think of a better opponent to retire his jersey in front of than perhaps the Lakers, because, as pointed out yesterday, Big Ben helped inspire a generation of undersized dreamers, like Saginaw's own Draymond Green, who penned a great tribute to Wallace yesterday in the Detroit Free Press.
Wallace had an unorthodox career path, yet was arguably the best player on that '04 team, along with Chauncey Billups. He is one of the greatest rebounders, defenders and shot blockers in NBA history, and what makes that even more sensational is that, not only was he listed at a VERY generous 6'9", but he was also an undrafted nobody out of Division II Virginia Union.
So without further ado, lets countdown some of the most memorable moments of Big Ben's career.
Big Ben Dominates in Playoff Debut
The date was April 21, 2002. The venue, the Palace of Auburn Hills. It was already a special night for Big Ben as he accepted the first of what would become 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards, presented to him by former NBA commissioner David Stern and Pistons legend Bob Lanier. However, the night would only get better for the Alabama native, as he would go on to absolutely stifle the visiting Toronto Raptors, as he ended up with a monstrous line of 19 points, 20 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks in 37 minutes.
Big Ben Makes his All-Star Debut
This was supposed to be the pinnacle of his then-young career, with the 27-year-old Wallace making his debut in the All-Star game in 2003. However, as you watch the video below, you'll be informed by a much-younger looking Ernie Johnson the tragic circumstances that Big Ben went through that week, with his mother Sadie unfortunately passing away. It didn't stop Ben from committing the cardinal sin in the All-Star game, playing defense. Still, what else was he going to do...make a three?
Ben Wallace Makes a Three!!!
Woah, what's happening here? In Big Ben's entire career, he made 7 three pointers, in 51 attempts at a sniper-like 13.2% accuracy. According to Basketball Reference, 9 of these shots were heaves, so 7/42 is his real number, a much better 16.7%.
Just look at that quick release. They needed to run more plays from him, just look at the yank down of his hands after the shot, a la Brandon Jennings. He even banked it, that's basketball smarts. There was another 3 I wanted to include, which I couldn't find on YouTube, but I have it on good authority from our own Sean Corp that it really did happen.
I distinctly remember Ben Wallace hitting a 3-pointer in Boston Garden when the Pistons were up by about 50. The Celtics were getting whooped so bad the crowd started rooting for the Pistons by the end, and they went nuts when he sunk the 3. I loved it.
If you say so, Sean.
Big Ben Messed Around...And Got A Triple Double
Unfortunately, there's no YouTube footage of this game that I could find, so if you can find it please leave it in the comments. But in this game against the Miami Heat, Big Ben dominated to the tune of 12 points, 19 rebounds and 10 BLOCKS!!! To put into perspective how impressive this was at the time (2002-03 season), there had been 82 such games with a player getting 10 blocks before this game. Of course, blocks weren't an official stat until 1985-86, so there's no telling how many blocks guys like Bill Russell or George Mikan got. Sure, 82 games sounds like a lot, but let's evaluate further. Manute Bol had 19 of those games. Shawn Bradley? 10. Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon had 12 and 11 respectively, and the Admiral, David Robinson, had 10. Basically, the best of the best get 10 blocks, and Big Ben had actually already done it once before, 9 months earlier, against Milwaukee.
I Used To Suck At Rebounding, Until I Found This Helpful Tutorial!!!
Watch this if you, like me, suck at rebounding.
Now I average 11 boards a game, dominating my rec league.
The Reason For My Pistons Fandom
We all have our own reasons why we are Pistons fans. For some of us, we are locals, Michiganders, and grew up breathing petrol-laced Detroit air. Some of us were inspired by the determination and grit of legends like Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman. Some of us appreciated the true underdog, and hated the glorified skeleton-crew that was the Los Angeles Lakers. For me, however, it was for this piece of excellent entertainment.
Ooft, chills. At the time this game was released, I was 9 years old (late 2004, feel old yet guys?). I had just gotten my first gaming console, a PlayStation 2, and, besides the two default games that come with the system (Gran Turismo 3 and Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, both great games by the way), this was my first ever video game. I thought, that guy looks cool, who does he play for? And hence, my NBA and Pistons fandom was born.
As an aside, this was also a very interesting choice for a cover athlete. In the history of the NBA 2K franchise, this was the first ever instalment not to have Allen Iverson as the cover athlete. Way to go, Big Ben, defense rocks!
"BLOCKED BY BEN WALLACE!!!"
How many times did we hear that over the years? It's so hard to narrow down his greatest blocks, but this YouTube video does that.
In the words of Chicago play-by-play announcer Stacey King, "meet me at the rim... and don't be late!"
The Emasculation of Shaqnation
Does the above statement make sense? No, not really. Do I really care? Absolutely not, I rhyme, it ain't no crime. And let's be honest, Shaq probably has his own government and calling code anyway. Anyway, if I had to pick one block that puts itself above all others in Ben's career, it has to be this one. Not only does he block Shaq without fouling, but Shaq falls down, a great way to assert dominance, and the Pistons get a jump ball. This block, according to Vincent Goodwill, was Ben's last great moment with that team.
In the words of the ever-humble Shaq after the game, "that was a foul, young lady, that was a foul..."
Yeaaaahhh.....no it wasn't Shaq.
A Perfect Representation of the 2004 NBA Finals
If there was one sequence which perfectly encapsulates the 2004 NBA Finals...
Detroit manhandled the Lakers all series, and jumped all over them, never allowing the Lakers to gain a foothold in that series. And you know what? There was nothing the Lakers could do about it, just as there was nothing Bryon Russell could do about becoming part of one of the greatest highlights of Big Ben's career.
What else needs to be said?
What was your favorite memory? Have your say below.