Pistons great Ben Wallace says his game would fit today's style of play
Suffice it to say that Ben Wallace wasn’t waiting by the phone or checking social media to see whether he was selected for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
If it happened, it happened.
If not, well, he would have been none the wiser.
Wallace, a five-time All-NBA selection, four-time defensive player of the year and member of the 2004 Pistons team that won the NBA title, is getting his just due. He was selected to the 2021 Hall of Fame class, and it all came as a surprise to him.
“I never thought about it until they called me and said I was nominated for the Hall of Fame,” Wallace said last week. “I thought it was a prank call or something. I thought there was a process you had to go through after you retired — I really didn't know.
“After the first time, I got the call that said I was nominated, then it became nerve-wracking.”
Wallace, 46, is part of the class that includes Chris Webber, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and WNBA stars Yolanda Griffin and Lauren Jackson, which will be inducted on Sept. 11 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Wallace becomes the first undrafted player to make it to the Hall of Fame, an apt hat-tip to his career as a hustling, do-it-all big man who was a small-ball center before the term became popular in more recent years.
At 6-foot-9, he had the build to defend all positions, and he stood toe-to-toe with Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA Finals, in one of his career highlights. Even though he may have been playing out of position at the time, he sees his game as an ideal fit for the current era.
“I think my game would be tailor-made for today's game. In my prime, I was that guy on the floor somewhat out of place because of my size and where I played the game,” Wallace said. “In my prime, the game was built for giants. I had to play in the land of giants. Now, the game is open and there's freedom to run and move and the game is a lot faster.”
In the decades that have passed, the game has changed significantly, with more emphasis on offense, scoring and freedom of movement. The Pistons’ great teams have been known for their emphasis on defense and physical play, which wouldn’t bode well for the current era.
That has Wallace thinking aloud about the state of the game and how he would have worked his way around the rules to still be a defensive stalwart.
“I think the game got a little bit soft,” he said. “I figured out in my career that if you do something often enough and you're good at it, they probably won't call it. If you want to play defense, there's no rule you can put in place to stop me from playing defense.
“I'll figure out a way around the rules.”
'In the right direction'
Despite the differences, Wallace likes the current Pistons, including a player who has been compared often to him: Isaiah Stewart. Wallace said he’s impressed by the roster construction and how they represent the city and the franchise.
“Troy has done a hell of a job for it to be his first year. The team is in a much better place right now and we're heading in the right direction as far as being a competitive team that comes in and works night in and night out,” Wallace said. “We're getting it done with our hustle and our energy. The hardest part of the game is finding guys you don't have to coach every minute they're on the floor.
“Those are the guys who go out and make plays with their energy and effort. We have a group of guys here who are capable of getting that done, and I like the way the roster is building up.”
Specifically, with Stewart, who also is an undersized center, there are some favorable comparisons in terms of their energy level and physical play. It’s been just one season for Stewart, but the initial signs are positive, but there is a distinction that Wallace wants to see.
“Yeah, I see a lot of myself in him. One thing that I would like to see is I don't want to see another Ben Wallace,” he said. “I've closed the chapter on Ben Wallace: undrafted, made the Hall of Fame. I would like to see guys take my game and pieces of other guys' games and add it to their game.
“I don't want to see a guy say he's going to be the next Ben Wallace and go out and try to play like Ben Wallace. You've got your own unique style and skills. Take a part of Ben Wallace's game and add it to yours.”
That’s an original. Like Wallace himself.