From charging his neighbors $3 for his service to having his jersey retired by $1.9 billion worth franchise, the impactful life story of Ben Wallace

Published 09/11/2023, 11:00 AM EDT

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Ben Wallace is the best undrafted player to ever make it to the NBA. He was one of the toughest and most physical opponents to face on the court. His tenacity on the court, along with his rebounding and shot-blocking, put him in the category of his own. The impact he made on the Detroit Pistons was monumental, and he was a crucial piece in them winning the championship in 2004.

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His path to the league was different from most. But going up against this New York Knicks legend during a camp after struggling to make $50 made him realize what he has to do to be great in the NBA and eventually achieve the greatest honor in basketball.

Ben Wallace’s path to NBA immortality

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Ben Wallace is the first undrafted player to make it to the Hall of Fame. But his journey to get there was not smooth. Being undersized for his position and having just his tenacity on the court as his selling point, teams were quick to skip over him in the NBA draft.

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After going undrafted, Wallace joined the Celtics for the summer league but was soon let go. While deciding to go to Italy, he got a call from the Washington Wizards saying he made the roaster. He later joined the Detroit Pistons, where he played from 2000–2006. He won a championship with them in 2004. During his career, he has won four Defensive Player of the Year awards and made the all-defensive team multiple times. He was also selected as an all-star four times and even led the league in rebounding for two seasons. His Jersey is retired by the Detroit Pistons.

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In 2021, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is the first undrafted player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. His career average of 5.7 PPG made people question this choice. But when we look at the entirety of Ben Wallace’s career and the impact he has had on his teams, it is undeniable that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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Charles Oakley’s impact on Ben Wallace

His dreams of making it to the league only started blossoming after his encounter with Charles Oakley. Back when Ben Wallace was in high school, he heard that Oakley was having a basketball camp nearby. The entry fee for the camp was $50. Ben Wallace started cutting the hair of his neighbors and classmates for $3 each and eventually saved up the money to go to the camp.

During the camp, Charles Oakley noticed Ben being aloof and not paying attention. This persuaded Oakley to have a 1-on-1 match with the young Wallace. But to Ben Wallace’s surprise, Oakley didn’t go easy on him. He was physical with him throughout the match, and the match ended with him having a split lip.

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“He showed me what a real man can do, and he was not holding back”. That is what Ben Wallace said when talking about the time. Charles Oakley took a liking to Ben Wallace’s tenacity and refusal to back down from the challenge. He put in a word for Ben to the Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace played there for 2 seasons and then played the next 2 years at Virginia Union, which was Charles Oakley’s alma mater.

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Written by:

Rijin Varghese

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Rijin is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the NBA for over a decade. He likes to learn about the nuances of sports, understand every player's contribution to a team, and also learn the logic behind player signings and team building.
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Edited by:

Nidhi

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