Rasheed Wallace – Paving a way!
Also read: 10 of the most unbreakable NBA Records
Wallace played in the NBA for 16 solid years. He was drafted with the 4th pick by the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards) in 1995. He played with the Bullets, Portland Trail Blazers, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics before retiring from the New York Knicks. He won an NBA Championhsip with the Pistons in 2004 and was also a 4 time All-Star. Wallace’s statistics are quite decent: 14.4 PPG, 1.3 BPG, 6.7 RPG and 1 SPG. But none of these stats even begin to describe the impact Wallace had on the game.
Wallace was one of the most entertaining players in the game. He defined the word hothead with his antics on the court, be it berating the officials with expletive filled rants, yelling, poking or earning countless technical fouls (that’s just a phrase. He earned 317 technical fouls throughout his career. That’s the highest ever).
He was also known for throwing up ill advised three pointers as and when he pleased. However, one of them did land though. Wallace banked a 60 foot buzzer beater against Denver. Pistons went on to win the game 113-108.
He was pretty much always the most intense guy on the field. Wallace was known for staring at the opponent a tad too long and losing his temper more often than not. Wallace was also a good defender, not just because of his skill, but due to his physicality and his habit of taking things a little too seriously. In fact, he loved the game so much that playing and retiring from it once wasn’t enough. He did it twice by coming out of retirement to play for the Knicks, last season.
But say whatever you want, the man had heart. Wallace led the Pistons to a title in 2004 against the mighty and strongly favoured Lakers. He didn’t just lead them, he motivated them. He lifted their spirits with his locker room talks. His dedication to the team was immense. Wallace was so proud of his team when they won the championship that he gifted every single teammate of his a replica of the WWE World Heavyweight championship belts.
Wallace made one more significant contribution to basketball. It was he who popularised the phrase “Ball don’t lie”. You see, Wallace was a hard hitting player. So naturally, he got called for a lot of fouls throughout his career. However, Wallace being the hothead, used to argue with the referees a lot. After all this was over and if the player missed the freethrow, Wallace would say “Ball don’t lie”, as in, justice has been served. Quite the theatrical guy isn’t he?
Rasheed Wallace – From player to mentor
Wallace has now entered the second phase of life as the Assistant Coach for the Detroit Pistons. He’s an assistant to his former coach and mentor Maurice “Mo” Cheeks. Cheeks coached the big man from 2001-2003 while they were both at Portland Trail Blazers. So, it’s a reunion of sorts. Cheeks had this to say on Wallace suiting up as a coach:
“He can make that transition. A lot of us, we didn’t start out being a certain way we are right now. But change evolves you, and he’s evolved. He realizes he’s in the second phase of his life now. And now he’s a coach. He has to make that transition, and I think he’ll be fine.”
Wallace is one of the most experienced player turned coach in the recent past, alongwith Jason Kidd. Having been a player until recently, Wallace has an unparalleled understanding of how the game is played these days. He’ll be able to impart his experience to the Pistons now, provided he’s able to keep his temper under check.
He has played under a lot of great coaches during his 16-year-career at the NBA. He has played under Larry Brown, Hall of Famer and the coach he won his championship title with. Wallace has also played under Mo Cheeks and Flip Saunders, two great head coaches. During his stint at the Celtics, he played under Championship winning Doc Rivers. They made it to the NBA finals in 2010. Wallace would definitely have been able to pick their brains during these periods of time.
He has also played with a wide range of players during his career. He even made it to the All-Star team four times. Factor in his 1100+ games played and you have got a guy with incredible basketball knowledge. We have to wait for his first game as assistant coach to see whether he can put all his knowledge into good use.
Pistons is one team which has a very little chance of making it to the playoffs. However, the newly signed Mo Cheeks might turn that around in a couple of years. If that does happen, that’s when the true worth of the big man Wallace will come into the picture.
He’s one player who truly stepped his game up at the playoffs. He knew when to exercise his full potential (this might be one reason why he survived in the NBA for this long despite being 6′ 11″). If the Pistons can somehow sneak into the playoffs, the Cheeks-Wallace duo might be able to carry them a little further than they had dared to dream of.
Overall, things are changing for Wallace. The uniform has been replaced with a baggy suit. The headband with a tie. The court with the sidelines. But I do know one thing for sure. This is not a guy whose presence in the game will diminish just because he’s stepped off the court. I am pretty sure there’s lots of rantings at referees left for us to watch and I don’t hear any of the fans complaining.