'Icon' Ben Wallace, ex-Michigan star Chris Webber selected to Basketball Hall of Fame

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
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The 2021 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will have a decided Detroit flavor to it.

Former Pistons center Ben Wallace is part of the 2021 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class.

The star-studded class will include two familiar names: Pistons icon Ben Wallace and former Michigan All-America and "Fab Five" member Chris Webber, who played at Detroit Country Day.

The group of luminaries selected also includes Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh as players, coaches Rick Adelman, Jay Wright and Bill Russell, and WNBA players Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson.

Wallace’s selection was reported on Saturday, and the Hall of Fame made the official announcement of the new class on Sunday.

“Congratulations to Pistons legend Ben Wallace! His election to the Hall of Fame rightly recognizes his place among the best to ever play the game of basketball,” current Pistons team owner Tom Gores said in a team statement. “By always putting his teammates and winning above all else, Ben has contributed so much to the sport and to the rich tradition of our franchise.

“He is an icon who inspired generations of basketball players and fans with his effort and tenacity. His tireless work ethic, grit and determination helped define Pistons basketball and will continue to set the standard for years to come.”

In nine seasons with the Pistons, Wallace was a four-time All-Star and four-time defensive player of the year. His career spanned 16 years in the league and he averaged 5.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals.

Wallace was known for his signature afro and he was one of the cornerstones of the Pistons' 2004 NBA championship. He was undrafted as a Division II All-America selection out of Virginia Union and began his NBA career with Washington in 1997.

He spent three seasons there before moving to the Orlando Magic, where he spent a season before the fateful Grant Hill trade brought him to Detroit. 

“Ben Wallace epitomized Detroit Pistons basketball.  We don’t win a third NBA championship without Ben Wallace,” former Pistons team president Joe Dumars said in the team statement. “He was the foundation for everything we accomplished, and he was simply an incredible basketball player.”

Webber grew up in Detroit and began playing basketball in church leagues and the Police Athletic League. By the time he was in middle school, his name was already swirling around recruiting circles before he opted to go to Country Day.

Former Michigan star Chris Webber was named to the 2021 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class on Sunday.

"I'm still in shock,” Webber said Sunday on ESPN. “My father is very happy, so that makes me happy. My mother is happy. It's just a moment that I'm being grateful, just thankful. Thankful to all the people, friends and family that's been around. I'm just in shock. I really am. I really don't know what to say.”

Webber, 48, was a national player of the year and the MVP of the McDonald’s All-America Game, but his biggest fame came as part of Michigan's Fab Five group of freshmen. That quintet, which included Jalen Rose, current Michigan coach Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, helped the Wolverines to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA championship game in 1992 and ’93.

Webber was an All-America selection in 1993, his final season at Michigan, when he averaged 19.2 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was selected No. 1 overall by the Orlando Magic in the 1993 NBA draft, but he was sent to the Golden State Warriors in a draft-night deal.

Webber played 15 seasons in the NBA, including part of the 2006-07 season with the Pistons. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and NBA Rookie of the Year in 1994 with the Warriors.

Webber averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in his NBA career.

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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