Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Wallace, Ben

“Big” Ben Wallace is a former professional basketball player who played for the Detroit Pistons for nine seasons, achieving an NBA championship victory in 2004.  

Wallace was born on September 10, 1974 in White Hall, Alabama. He was a talented basketball player throughout his youth, continuing to play at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, and later at the NCAA Division II school Virginia Union University, though he would go undrafted by the NBA. Following a brief stint playing basketball overseas in an Italian league, Wallace joined the Washington Bullets in 1996 (renamed the Wizards the following year). He played for the Orlando Magic for the 1999-2000 season before being traded to the Detroit Pistons. 

During his first run with the Pistons, Wallace earned his status as defensive force, leading the league multiple times in rebounds and blocked shots. The 2003-2004 season saw the Pistons secure an NBA championship for the first time since 1990, beating the Los Angeles Lakers. During the following season, Wallace was a key participant in the “Malice at the Palace” brawl, in which Wallace shoved Indiana Pacer Ron Artest after being fouled. The situation devolved, and as a result, Wallace and other players were suspended for varying lengths.  

His defensive prowess led him to be an NBA All-Star four consecutive years from the 2003 to 2006 seasons, and clinching the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award four times. He moved to the Chicago Bulls for two seasons in 2006, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008, eventually returning for three more seasons in Detroit. Wallace retired from professional play after 2012, and 1,088 games played. With Wallace’s hustle in many ways defining the “Going to Work” era of the Pistons, the team retired his number 3 in 2016. In 2021 Wallace was the first undrafted player inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Despite no longer playing, Wallace is still involved with the Pistons organization.