Reading a piece on the recently held 2016 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame particularly the section that lingered on whether Ben Wallace’ eligibility for selection next year would turn out to be a selection, got me to pen this piece. To put down the marker in simple terms, Wallace does deserve a place in the immortal realm of the Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The red curtains have closed, red carpets rolled and the newest members of the Hall of Fame, headlined by an irrepressible trio of Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal; the elaborate, humor laden ceremony befitted the big men who made speech after speech.

Ming opened the NBA to a whole new world much like the railroads did to the West for a young American nation. Iverson went up against anyone who stood in his way- coach, teammates, the league, everyone- and Shaq, well what can I say about Shaq.

Never has there been a plus 7 foot tall man who connected with us Lilliputians far more than Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ever did.

But the 2016 ceremony is over and for the next months, talk of who wins what in the NBA will take over as candidacy for induction into the famed hall takes a huge step back into the shadows.

With Kevin Durant aligning forces with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at the Warriors, Boston Celtics capturing Al Horford and the Utah Jazz looking ripe for a postseason appearance for the first time since 2012 after getting Joe Johnson, George Hill and Boris Diaw, such talk will definitely be shelved.


However, before all semblance of honoring players from years gone by loses its value albeit briefly, a look into next year’s class pikes interest. Former Detroit Pistons Center Ben Wallace will be eligible for induction in 2017 after retiring from the league in 2012 thus meeting the five year period a player has to be removed from playing to be inducted. But the question that has bugged Wallace’ candidacy has to do with his numbers most specifically his 5.7 points scoring average. So how does a player who averaged 5.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in his career end up getting early conversation to be inducted? The answer is defense.

Wallace was a menacing presence in the paint for Detroit anchoring the Pistons to win the 2004 NBA Title and reach six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals in the mid 2000’s. Despite standing 6 foot 7 inches, Wallace had a habit of playing and leaving a mark against the very best of big men in the days before three point shooting big guys like Ryan Anderson became vogue in the NBA. He battled Ming, O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and the best of them. Now, all these guys have been inducted into the hall so what then would stop a guy who held his own against them despite being very undersized. We rave about Iverson’s ability to go toe to toe against anyone despite standing 5 foot 11 without shoes and Wallace did got toe to toe against the giants.


Fellow undersized man Draymond Green who mans the Center position in limited minutes is rated among the best defenders for his ability to shut down guys like Timofey Mozgov who tower seven inches than him and here, it is Mozgov we are talking about and here again it is the new NBA. The NBA that lacks big guys of Ming’s ilk with great footwork and skills to play in the paint but rather trot out to the three point arc and fire away. What Ben Wallace did was play a role that required effort, sacrifice and exceptional timing to fit alongside scorers Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.

Sharing the record number of Defensive Player of the Year titles (4) with Mutombo, the 2002 leader in blocked shots, two time rebounding leader, five time All-Defensive First Team member and four time All-Star achievements does make a compelling case for Wallace’ induction. He did not score a lot of points but you can’t argue against his brilliance in doing what most wouldn’t do. In past ceremonies, players who thrived in roles have been given the nod into the history books as the likes of scoring machine Mitch Richmond, and defensive juggernaut Dennis Johnson. Perhaps the biggest subject to solidify the argument for Wallace’ induction would have to be Dennis Rodman who is a two time Defensive Player of the Year and veracious rebounder and a role player.


Playing alongside greats in Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and David Robinson, Rodman embraced his role as the “dirty” worker for them to shine and he got inducted for it. So what stops Wallace from getting in I say. Another compelling case for induction has to be Tracy McGrady who retired in 2013 and will be eligible for induction in 2018 but that will be a touchy case for another day.


By Yaw Adjei- Mintah


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