Wallace was born the tenth of eleven children in White Hall Alabama. In high school he was All-State in basketball, football, and baseball. At 17, Wallace attended a basketball camp and met New York Knicks' center Charles Oakley. Oakley would become Ben's mentor.
After high school, Wallace attended junior college at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland Ohio. At Cuyahoga Ben averaged 17 rebounds and nearly 7 blocks per game. After two seasons Wallace, under the advisement of Charles Oakley, transferred to division 2 Virginia Union. In his Senior year at V.U. Wallace earned All-State honors in baseball, football, and basketball, where he averaged 13pts, 10reb, 3.6 blocks, and led his team to the Division 2 Final Four.
After a reasonably successful college career, Ben Wallace entered the 1996 NBA Draft. Unfortunately he went undrafted.
That summer Wallace received an invite to the Boston Celtics' summer league squad. Boston's Head Coach M.L. Carr insisted that Wallace didn't have the size to play center or power forward in the NBA, instead Boston worked him out as a small forward, a position more suitable to his 6'7" frame. Wallace obviously was cut.
A couple months later Ben Wallace was contacted by legendary undersized center Wes Unseld, who was at the time the General Manager of the Washington Bullets. On October 2nd, 1996, Ben Wallace signed with Washington.
Behind Juwan Howard and Chris Webber, the rookie Wallace didn't see very much playing time. In his 2nd year ('97) Ben took a huge jump in playing time, and as expected the productivity came along with it. His 1.1 BPG was 2nd on the Wizards despite only playing 16 minutes per game.
Chris Webber was traded before the '98 season and Ben Wallace went on to play 26 minutes per game, he finished the year averaging 2 BPG. After that season Ben was traded to The Orlando Magic.
It was Orlando coach, Doc Rivers who first showed enough confidence in Wallace to give him a starting job. In The '99 season Ben Wallace played in 81 games, and started in all of them. In 24 minutes per game Big Ben averaged 5 pts, 8 reb, and 1.6 blocks, not exactly earth-shattering numbers but Wallace still hadn't quite taken off the training wheels.
Little did everyone know at the time, but that 2000 off-season would change everything. Grant Hill was on his way out of Detroit, and he had decided to become a member of the Orlando Magic. In order for Hill to sign a maximum contract extension in Orlando he would have to be traded, thus also trading his bird rights. The Magic sent Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins to Detroit for Grant Hill... it was a trade that at the time appeared criminally one sided.
That first season in Detroit would turn out to be a special one. Despite only winning 32 games that year, the new look Pistons were wildly entertaining. Ben Wallace took over the job at starting center and lead the NBA in rebounds with 1,052 and finished 10th in the league with 2.3 blocks per game. Teammate Jerry Stackhouse put up just under 30 points per game and posted a season high of 57 points. Detroit had reason to be excited.
In the 2001-02 season The Detroit Pistons, much like the Boston Celtics, returned to the NBA Playoffs. Big Ben lead the NBA in rebounds and blocks per game. Detroit reversed the previous year's record of 32-50 and instead won 50 games. The Pistons were back on the map and it was all because of Ben Wallace.
Meanwhile in Boston, The Celtics entered the Playoffs with 49 wins. The dynamic duo of Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker were lighting up the NBA. The Celtics were first in the league in 3-Pointers made and steals, they were run and gun, and they were exciting. One thing they missed though was a defensive stopper in the paint, a guy that could cover up mistakes and gobble up rebounds. The team's leading rebounder was All-Star Power Forward Antoine Walker. 'Toine was more of an offensive minded big man, he wasn't a great defender, his rebounding had fallen off since discovering the three point line, but he had very quick hands and could easily steal the ball from opposing less skilled big men.
This is where we can get into "What if's". Under Jim O'Brien's system, the Celtics were encouraged to take open shots, specifically threes, if they were open. With the younger squad it was also a quick attacking offense. If that '02 team were to have a ball-hawking big man to anchor the paint... there's no doubt in my mind that they could have overtaken the New Jersey Nets to advance into the NBA Finals. I don't know how they'd do against Shaq in his prime, but it's always good to get there. How different is Paul Pierce's legacy if he played in 1 more NBA Finals? The past decade would have been defined by Kobe vs Pierce.
In 6 Playoff games between New Jersey and Boston, Jason Kidd averaged 11 rebounds per game. That simply does not happen if The Celtics have Ben Wallace in the paint. Defense and rebounding wins Championships. Like Bill Russell before him, Ben Wallace IS defense and rebounding.