With Rasheed Wallace’s career now over, his legacy will be that of perhaps the most volatile indifferent (quite an oxymoron, I know) player in NBA history because of the numerous technical fouls accumulated as well as the scowls and over the top reactions to the calls of officials. In addition, this past season alone, Celtics fans watched Wallace as he carried some added weight during the course of the year (people in Boston might as well get familiar with the idea considering that Shaquille O’Neal is now part of the Celtics), fired away some ill-advised three point shots all the while not even bothering to run down to the post. His defensive rotations were at times slow and he seemed completely bothered by the idea of actually playing during the course of the regular season.
Once the playoffs started, Sheed looked like he was more invested into the team. He pulled down tough rebounds in traffic, made some hard fouls and hit some dagger shots late in ball games. In addition, he helped slow down Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference Finals and made life a living hell for Pau Gasol in the Finals. And yet, in a few years when his name comes up, he will be simply be remembered as an overly emotional player that racked up technical fouls. But the truth is Wallace was so much more.
Just a few years ago, Rasheed Wallace was the most talented power forward in the league. No one player in the league could stop his combination of post moves as well as his ferocity when attacking the rim (and for good measure, he would step out to knock down a few threes). Seriously, Sheed was like a mix of Pau Gasol and Amare Stoudemire in the way he attacked and punished his defenders. He had the best turn around jump shot in the post (high release that prevented people from blocking it), a great drop step, always finished around the basket, displayed good leaping ability and for good measure guarded every player in the frontcourt (small forwards, power forwards and centers).
We tend to forget just how skilled he was because of two events:
1. Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals
The Portland Trail Blazers entered the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead at the Staples Center, only to miss shot after shot as the Lakers mounted a great comeback on their way to a win. The Blazers defeat is seen as one of the biggest choke jobs in sports history and yet, check out the former Tar Heel’s line from the game:
30 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 13-26 FGs, 2-2 3PT FGs.
The only reason the Blazers were in the game was because Wallace carried them for most of the game. But he, as well as every other player from that team, carries the stigma of players that were talented, but not talented enough.
2. Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals
With the Pistons leading by two points (series tied 2-2) and a few seconds left in overtime, Spurs forward Robert Horry inbounded the ball to Manu Ginobili in the corner (left baseline of the frontcourt at the three point line) and Rasheed Wallace left Horry (big mistake) to double team Ginobili. The Argentine then passed the ball back to Horry who hit the game winning three point shot. The Spurs went on to eventually win the title while everybody blamed the loss on Wallace’s mistake. Yet, no one ever mentions that the 2005 Finals went seven games because Sheed did one of the best defensive jobs ever on Tim Duncan. TD’s numbers during the 2005 Finals were:
20.6 PG, 14.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 54-129 FGs (41.9 FG%)
When you couple these two events with the fact that Wallace had a high propensity to accumulate technical fouls, it’s easy to overlook his overall game. Indeed, he reminds me in that sense of MC Hammer: we all remember him as perhaps the best artist to ever go bankrupt. Yet, rarely is it mentioned that his Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt’Em album is the highest selling rap album of all time. Yes, all time. So the next time you think back to Rasheed Wallace, it’s perfectly fine to remember his on court behavior, but let’s also remember that he was an extremely talented big man. Although his team lost the Lakers in the 2010 Finals, Wallace went throwback and showed us his low post repertoire one last time in Game 7; and really his performance makes it easier for all of us to say goodbye to Sheed…..