Charles Oakley’s altercation with a security guard at Madison Square Garden in 2000 paved the way for Ben Wallace to become an NBA Hall of Famer.
Ben Wallace has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After an amazing 16-year NBA career, the Detroit Pistons great was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame over the weekend. However, getting to the NBA was not an easy task. Wallace went undrafted in 1996 after a modest undergraduate career at Cuyahoga Community College and Virginia Union, but if it hadn’t been for some $3 haircuts and a violent 1-on-1 game against Charles Oakley when he was a youngster, he may never have played in college or even made it to the league.
Ben Wallace’s circuitous route to NBA greatness
Former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace walks off the court after a halftime celebration at the Palace of Auburn Hills’ last NBA game | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Getting into the Basketball Hall of Fame is usually a simple process. You must be a standout high school or college athlete who hears your name called early in the NBA draft. This positions you to start early in your career and ultimately take over a club as the franchise player. From then, statistics, awards, and championships will take over.
Ben Wallace’s journey to Springfield, Massachusetts, however, was anything from ordinary.
Wallace spent two years in college at Cuyahoga Community College and the remaining two at Virginia Union. In the 1996 NBA draft, he was an unknown name, and he didn’t hear his name called on that fateful night.
Wallace earned a spot on the Boston Celtics’ Summer League roster after going undrafted, but he didn’t last long. As his NBA ambitions appeared to be crumbling, the center went to Italy, but he finally received a call from the Washington Wizards and made the final roster for the 1996-97 season.
Wallace went on to play in the NBA for 16 years. Wallace is the only undrafted player in NBA history to be named to the Hall of Fame after four All-Star appearances, four Defensive Player of the Year honors, and six All-Defensive Team selections.
Ben Wallace’s Hall of Fame career was launched with $3 haircuts and a broken lip from Charles Oakley.
Wallace fought his way up from a community college player to an NBA Hall of Famer, but if it hadn’t been for his high school micro haircut company, he may never have made it.
Wallace spent his Fourth of July weekend following his sophomore year of high school providing haircuts to friends and neighbors for the cheap price of $3 each, according to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner. He wanted to earn $50 in order to attend a local basketball camp led by Charles Oakley, a New York Knicks icon.
Wallace finally collected enough money from haircuts to cover the $50 registration fee, and he drove the 100 miles to the one-week camp. When Oakley saw Wallace wasn’t paying attention during the training, he challenged him to a 1-on-1 game, and he didn’t go easy on him.
According to NBA.com, Wallace stated, “He showed me what a true guy can do and he wasn’t holding back.” “He insisted on getting his way and split my lip in the process. Now, I’m a player as well, and I don’t back down from a challenge, so I wasn’t afraid to get physical with him. He took a like to me after that.”
Wallace’s tenacity pleased Oakley, so he put in a good word with Cuyahoga Community College. Wallace transferred to Virginia Union, which happened to be Oakley’s alma school, after two years there.
After that, the rest is history.
A deserving member of the Hall of Fame
On Saturday, Wallace’s career came full circle as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s been a long journey from $3 haircuts and community college basketball to Springfield, Massachusetts.
Wallace made his influence known in every other area of the game, despite concerns from die-hard fans about his 5.7 lifetime points per game average. During his 11-year career with the Pistons, he averaged 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, earning him four Defensive Player of the Year honors (tied for the most in NBA history) and six All-Defensive Team choices.
Add in an NBA championship in 2004, and you’ve got yourself a Hall of Fame candidate.
Basketball-Reference provided all stats.
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