Basketball News: Ben Wallace has fought his way into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 as one of the best defensive players of his generation despite being an undrafted, undersized big who averaged less than six points per game during his career.
Other NBA draughts, such as the 1984 Michael Jordan and 2003 LeBron James editions, can be argued to be the best in league history.
However, a documentary that debuted on NBA TV in April and has been on repeat since then makes a compelling case for the talent that flooded through the doors on June 26, 1996.
Allen Iverson. Marcus Camby. Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Stephon Marbury. Ray Allen. Antoine Walker. The first six picks were used to help seed young clubs in Toronto and Vancouver, as well as revitalise sputtering franchises in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Boston.
But wait, there’s more: Kobe Bryant slipping to No. 13 due to his apprehensions about his high school prospects. Steve Nash, No. 15, was a small Canadian youngster who came in from Santa Clara University and went on to win two NBA MVP awards.
In the documentary, Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas termed it “one of the biggest cultural revolutions, basketball transformations, in NBA history.” Iverson, Allen, Bryant, and Nash, four of those whose dreams came true that night, subsequently joined Thomas in the shrine in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Other All-Stars and key role players on championship teams were among the 58 names read on the stage by NBA commissioner David Stern (first round) and senior VP Rod Thorn (second round) at the New Jersey Nets’ arena in East Rutherford, N.J., ranging from Jermaine O’Neal and Peja Stojakovic to Derek Fisher and Malik Rose.
When the telecast ended, Ben Wallace, who was watching from home, turned off the TV. He then returned to work.
“Once you get past the first shock and the reality that everyone has to pay for not taking a risk on you, it’s back to the work,” said Wallace, a senior from Division II Virginia Union who was ready but left waiting at the time. “So that night, I went back to the gym.”
“‘Y’all missed one,’ I was on a mission to inform everyone. And until I gave up, I completed bench press reps to every name that was called in that draught. So whoever – A.I., ‘Starbury,’ Shareef, Jermaine, Ray, and Kobe – it was. It simply became the motivation for me. Now it’s just me and the world, with my back against the wall.”
That is no longer the case. When Wallace is eventually enshrined this weekend, there will be a large open space behind him, a beloved coach off to his side, and a glittery lectern in front of him. Wallace will be the first undrafted NBA player admitted into the Hall of Fame, joining colleagues such as Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Chris Webber, Toni Kukoc, coach Rick Adelman, and veteran Bill Russell, who will be inducted for the second time for his two-ring work as a coach.
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