Undrafted out of DII Virginia Union University (via the even more obscure Cuyahoga Community College), Ben Wallace’s ascent to NBA stardom with the Detroit Pistons was as unlikely as any we’ve ever seen. Well-known for his trademark Afro, the 6’9” center was one of basketball’s most feared defenders for a time, amassing four All-Star appearances, five all-league selections and two rebounding crowns over his 16 NBA seasons, nine of which were spent in Detroit.
According to ESPN’s Marc Spears, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year has been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, finally getting the call to Springfield (where he’ll be enshrined later this year) after being named a finalist in both 2019 and 2020. Wallace also played for the Wizards, Magic, Bulls and Cavaliers but made his biggest impact in Detroit, leading the Pistons to consecutive Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005. Playing alongside Chauncey Billups, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, Wallace helped bring a title to the Motor City in 2004, putting the clamps on Lakers big man Shaquille O’Neal in a decisive, five-game victory.
The Hayneville, Alabama native was admittedly an offensive liability, contributing just 5.7 points per game while barely shooting 40 percent from the line (41.4-percent free-throw shooter). However, his tenacity and fearlessness on the other end of the floor made him a fan favorite, leading the Pistons to retire his number (3) in 2016.
Wallace’s career wasn’t without controversy—his reaction to a hard foul by Ron Artest set off the infamous “Malice in the Palace,” the ugliest brawl in NBA history and a black eye on the sport. But as a hard-working blue-collar-type routinely tasked with neutralizing all-world talents like Shaq, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan (the latter two are being inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight), Wallace will certainly go down as one of most impactful players of his era.
The rest of the Class of 2021 has yet to be announced, though fellow finalists Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and Chris Webber are good bets to join Wallace on the stage in Springfield this fall.