This year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class was announced, and Sidney Moncrief and Vlade Divac headline the next grouping of inductees, well-deserving of the honor. But their inductions came at the cost of one particular player who has deserved an induction for several years now. The year is 2019, Ben Wallace still isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and we should be ashamed.
Wallace doesn’t have the usual Hall of Fame resume attached to inductees; he has a championship ring, but his impact came exclusively on the defensive end. He was the only player to be able to guard Shaquille O'Neal 1-on-1 at the height of his powers in the early 2000s, and kept him to an average of 26 points and 10 rebounds in the 2004 Finals. That might not sound like an accomplishment, but in Shaq’s three previous NBA Finals appearances, he averaged at least 33 points and 12 rebounds. Wallace not only made life difficult for Shaq and prevented him from taking over games, he took him as far out of the game as anyone in history has ever been able to do.
That in of itself is worthy of high praise, but not quite a Hall of Fame resume. Wallace didn’t just show up for the Finals, though. He was the best interior defender in the league at his peak, a fact that his four Defensive Player of the Year awards in five years should prove. Over the course of his career, he totaled more blocks than fouls and more steals than turnovers, the only player in NBA history who has that honor.
Big Ben will be remembered as the one mortal who could stop Superman. Only a handful of players in NBA history had the ability to affect a game like him without averaging double-digit points, and they’re in the Hall already. Let’s stop wasting time and immortalize his impact in basketball lore.