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Ben Wallace snubbed in rankings of best players in the last 30 years

Denny Velasco of The Basketball Jones finished ranking the best 10 players at each position during the last 30 years, and Ben Wallace didn’t make the cut at either power forward or center.

That’s a huge mistake.

I don’t care whether you classify Wallace as a power forward or center – I see arguments for both – he deserved to make one of the lists. He was certainly better than Shawn Kemp (power forward) and Yao Ming (center), and he might be better than Pau Gasol and (power forward) and Dikembe Mutumbo (center).*

*Compare stats of those five players.

For a stretch sometime around 2002-05, Wallace was the third-best player in the NBA behind Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

Defensively, he was better than anyone since Bill Russell. His on-ball defense was solid, and his off-ball defense was other-worldly. There were possessions he guarded all five players at one point. His rotations were that crisp, and he moved that well on the perimeter.

Offensively, Wallace was well above average. Just because he wasn’t a gifted scorer, don’t discount his contributions on that end of the court. He set great screens, passed well for his size, spaced the floor and offensive rebounded. Plus, he didn’t steal shots from the Pistons’ more-efficient scorers.

Now that Dennis Rodman has started to receive all these accolades – Hall of Fame, ranked the No. 7 power forward of the last 30 years – Wallace might be my choice for the most underrated player of all time.


  • Aug 5, 201111:54 am
    by neutes


    Mutombo was pretty good. My homerism wants me to rank Wallace and Mutombo both ahead of Ewing, but behind Howard. Homer top 5, and I could easily argue this – 1. Hakeem 2. Shaq 3. Robinson 4. Howard 5. Wallace. Wallace’s impact was much greater than Ewings. As was Mutombo’s. I’d rank Camby ahead of Yao as well, so Yao doesn’t belong anywhere near this list.

    • Aug 5, 201112:10 pm
      by RyanK


      You’re kidding about ranking Ewing behind Mutombo and Ben, right?  Are you old enough to remember Ewing on the court?  I think most people would take him ahead of Howard if he played today.  He had post moves, a jumpshot, was a tough defender, and was a competitor.
      Don’t let the fact he came up against Michael Jordan every year in the playoffs diminish his greatness.  He was a great player.

      • Aug 5, 201112:37 pm
        by neutes


        Hmm let me check the numbers….
        Yup I’ll still take Wallace, Howard, and Mutombo over Ewing. I might flip Mutombo and Wallace though. Mutombo very underrated. I just got to watch Wallace more so I understand his impact.
        Also funny that the Knicks made the championship game the year Ewing was injured. Not that I’m trying to say anything about his game by that comment just a funny coincidence. That jumper didn’t do Ewing too much good. His FG% plummeted when he started using it more. He had 7 seasons of sub .500 FG%, which you don’t want to see from a center.

      • Aug 5, 201112:58 pm
        by brgulker


        He had post moves,

        And Ben Wallace had an afro. What’s your point?

        Post moves in and of themselves are literally worthless. You don’t get any points for making a sweet spin move.

  • Aug 5, 201112:33 pm
    by RyanK


    “For a stretch sometime around 2002-05, Wallace was the third-best player in the NBA behind Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.”
    Do you really believe this?  Can you say it with a straight face, or are you just looking to get some debate going?  Sure, Wallace was dominate on defense…but the other 50% of the game he was one of the poorest players in the league.
    From 02-05, you’d rather have Ben Wallace than Shaq on your team?  Then there are a whole house of perimeter players that have a two way game you’re leaving out.  Paul Pierce has always been a force.  Kobe?

    • Aug 5, 20112:37 pm
      by brgulker


      Ben Wallace had an outstanding offensive rating while in Detroit. Turns out setting screens, finishing alley-oops, getting put back dunks, and creating extra possessions through offensive rebounding actually have a net positive effect on team offense.

      There’s more than one way to help your team, man.

      • Aug 5, 20115:31 pm
        by RyanK


        Now I’m convinced this is just a place to come to argue.  Since when has Wallace ever contributed anything offensively to the team?  Sure, his man will leave him wide open under the basket at times because no one ever takes him seriously there.  If he gets a wide open dunk this makes him a brilliant offensive machine?  I give him credit, I never was able to dunk…but if I could, I would jump up there and slam it through when I’m all by myself under the rim.
        Ewing’s long walks through the lane are legendary.  He would get to the line so much.  Argue all you want, but Ben was surrounded by scorers which allowed him to do nothing offensively except set screens and get put backs.  That worked for our team.  But Ben on the Knicks and watch how great he is with Starks, Harper, Smith, Oakley as his teammates.  Then you’d see a lottery team which Ewing took the brink of a championship.

        • Aug 5, 20119:42 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          “Now I’m convinced this is just a place to come to argue.”

          If that’s what you want it to be. Let us know when you decide to bring one.

          • Aug 6, 20113:42 am
            by gmehl1977

            Something my dad taught me a loooong time ago Patrick…you can’t argue with idiots!

        • Aug 5, 201110:48 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          Sorry, one more thing to add since on this whole “Wallace only played defense” thing. It reminded me of a quote from Mike Storen, GM of the Kentucky Colonels, when the team was debating whether or not to draft and sign Artis Gilmore (who, incidentally, is going into the Hall of Fame this year).

          Someone told Storen, ‘All Gilmore does is play defense.’

          Storen replied, ‘If all he does is play defense, then that’s an awful lot, since all defense does is win games.’

  • Aug 5, 201112:59 pm
    by brgulker


    Ignorance in sports media? Say it ain’t so…

    Big Ben got snubbed. Of course he did. Idiot sports writers only care about flash and points. They don’t care about dominant defense and rebounding. What else is new?

    The hope I have is that Rodman made the HoF. That means there’s a chance for Wallace to get there, and he definitely deserves it.

    • Aug 6, 20113:50 am
      by gmehl1977


      Do you guys remember that run we had of keeping opposition teams under 70 points? Wallace was the catalysis of that dominant defensive record. I believe the NBA changed rules because of that team because they thought that kind of basketball was boring and too low scoring. We would beat teams by double figures with only scoring 80 ourselves. Big Ben made other players want to pass and share it round more because he worked so hard on defense. 2 words describe him ‘warrior’ & ‘champion’

  • Aug 5, 20112:06 pm
    by vic


    Wallace will definitely get his due in time…
    I’d rank him above Mutombo and Yao, behind Ewing.

    He did more than Mutombo, and won more than Yao….
    Unfortunately for the story-makers, Yao’s full impact was stolen by injuries. Reality says he was better than Yao

    Defensive superstars are always underrated until more time passes by

  • Aug 5, 20112:45 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    I know we have some anti-advanced stat people here, and without getting into value judgements on that, how does the eye test not work with Wallace even if you don’t value the stats?

    Ben Wallace completely controlled games with his defense. He was easily the most dominant defensive force in the NBA. He had one of the most unique, incredible skillsets of any big man who ever played.

    Maybe Ben couldn’t post up the way Ewing could (although Ewing did a lot more shooting 15-footers and fadeaways post-1990 than posting up). He certainly wasn’t the scorer Ewing, Yao or Kemp were. But you know what? Those guys couldn’t even come close to matching what Wallace could do defensively, and that should be absurdly obvious to anyone who watched those guys play. What Wallace brought to the table — elite defense, rebounding, offensive rebound, shot-blocking, fundamentally sound passing/screen-setting/etc. — was insanely valuable. Just because he didn’t score a lot doesn’t change the fact that he’s an absolute star who had a major impact on the game.

  • Aug 5, 20114:20 pm
    by Rodman4Life


    Wallace was a joy to watch.  He was nothing short of brilliant when he was on the floor 8-9 years ago.  Kemp had so much untapped talent, but his accomplishments don’t even register compared with Wallace’s. 

    • Aug 6, 20119:36 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      God. Thinking about Kemp is so depressing. The fact that that Seattle team only made one Finals is tragic considering the talent they had.

  • Aug 5, 20114:50 pm
    by lindsey


    I enjoyed watching Ben last year! He can still make an impact on the defensive end, and his offense has improved immensely since the Stackhouse years. I think he still deserves minutes.

  • Aug 5, 201111:41 pm
    by trav


    Defensively, probably the best overall defender in history.  Offensively, I’ve seen worse.   Just because of his success most people just ragged on him because of his offensive game.  However, in his prime he could dunk over anybody and catch ally oops as well.  He could pass to the cutter, in the post.  How many times did he find Tay or Rip cutting from the top of the key, while in the post? a lot.  And as I remember offensive rebounding was part of Offense.   He racked up a ton of Off Reb, but he also got maybe 10-15 tip backs a game, to keep the ball alive on offense and that gave the pistons a ton of extra shots.  When G-money went to Orlando, I think everyone thought that the Pistons were done for a long time, the  best players were Stackhouse, Jud Buechler and of course double zero- Eric ‘The Monster’ Montross.  And also their promising rookies Manteen Cleaves and New Champ-Brain Cardinal.  But we got Ben Wallace for Grant, and who would have thought we got the better end of that deal in a landslide.  Ben was one of the Great ones for sure.  And He was a center, not a PF, a Center.  He only played PF in Cleveland and that doesn’t count.  As a  Piston, he was a center, right behind Shaq at the time, and at rare times, was better because of his impact.  *DONGGGGGGGG!*

  • Aug 6, 20111:44 am
    by rob


    Somebody posted this in the comments on the article.

    Its got Ben listed #5 All-Time in defensive rating of all players, not just centers, and of both the NBA/ABA.

    I would’ve never guessed 3rd and 4th ahead of him – Gar Heard and Dave Cowens, lol

    Elmore Smith is #1 and Duncan #2.

    I agree with Ben and Tim being top 5 all time, but not Heard and Cowens, so idk how they determined this rating.

    Another fishy ranking is Rasheed at 70, because #69 is C-Webb. Anybody who ever watched them play knows Webber was not better defensive player than Sheed, lol.

    Anyway, Ben belonged in the top 10 Centers on this list over Mutombo and Yao. I have no dispute over 1 through 8 based on the last 30 yrs, but Ben should be #9.

    • Aug 6, 20111:47 am
      by rob


      For the record, imo, Ben is the greatest defensive player of all-time, or at least that I’ve ever seen.

      • Aug 6, 20119:35 pm
        by Patrick Hayes



        It’s a toss-up for me between Ben and Rodman. I would say Rodman was more versatile (not that Ben couldn’t defend the perimeter, Rodman could just do it full-time if he was needed to), but Wallace had the shot-blocking factor that Rodman didn’t have. Rodman had a longer prime.

        I can’t say those two are the best all-time, because I obviously never watched Russell and a few others, but they’re definitely the two best of I’ve watched during my lifetime.

  • Aug 6, 201110:11 am
    by JoshB


    If you wanna think about his impact on the game think about the fact that fans(not just ours) voted him to start the all star game. For a player that people wanna claim was one-dimensional, I think that’s pretty impressive. I don’t think you can look at his accomplishments and not see how much of an impact he had. I wouldn’t put him in front of Ewing(although I always thought Ewing was overrated) but I don’t see how he doesn’t make the list.

  • Aug 6, 20113:47 pm
    by jake the snake


    Look I like ben wallace as much as the next piston fan, but some things are being said here that are ridiculous.
    1.  He was never at any point the 3rd best player in the NBA.
    2.  I was younger when Rodman was playing, but I don’t think you can put Wallace ahead of Rodman defensively from what I remember.  If anything it is a wash.
    There are some good points being made too, and I’ll definitely agree that Wallace was better than Gasol and Yao.

  • Aug 6, 20118:30 pm
    by Ali


    This is pathetic.
    You guys back each other up on your absurd arguments and you argue back with your posters like this is a playground. So unprofessional.
    An go read your argument, wow.

    • Aug 6, 20119:31 pm
      by Patrick Hayes



      Yeah, if people agree with each other, they tend to support each other’s arguments.

      And seriously, just because we write for the site, does that mean we aren’t supposed to interact in the comments? We have strong opinions, just like a lot of commenters do. So if people are arguing or challenging us on what we write, we do our best to defend it.

      I really don’t understand what you complain about. Hell, this is one of the few sites out there where the writers actually pay attention and interact down in the comments. I fail to see what is wrong with that.

      Bottom line is we respect people who can put together good arguments, even ones that don’t jibe with our personal views of the Pistons/basketball in general. The only thing your comments reveal about you is that you are incapable of putting together any kind of argument.

  • Aug 8, 20115:34 pm
    by Dick


    Ben was and is still a great defensive player and rebounder but not much on offense. I really like Ben and his work ethics but couldn’t put him ahead of Rodman either.

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