One-time Cavalier Ben Wallace spent time in Cleveland way before fans knew him
Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame 2021 class inductee Ben Wallace is best known for his long career as a member of the Detroit Pistons, but did you know he cut his teeth in Cleveland long before making the NBA? That’s right.
Long-time Cleveland Cavaliers fans know the NBA legend was once traded to the team in 2008 and had played a pivotal part in that season’s deep playoff run, but very few would remember that he also played basketball in Northeast Ohio a decade and a half prior.
After leaving high school in 1992 without any scholarship offers, Wallace moved from Alabama to Cleveland to suit up for Cuyahoga Community College. He fully displayed his defensive chops with just a sliver under seven (!) blocked shots to go with 17 points per game in his sophomore year.
Those numbers alone were enough to entice scouts to take a second look, earning him an offer to transfer to NCAA Division II program Virginia Union University, where he completed the final two years of his collegiate career.
Ben Wallace, the NBA legend
Flying under the radar once more, Wallace went unselected in the famed 1996 NBA Draft class and split his first four seasons with the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magic. Then came the year 2000, the pivotal point in his career, as he was traded to Detroit.
The unheralded 6’8” big man then spent six seasons in his first stint as the resident tough guy at the Palace of Auburn Hills, earning five All-NBA Team selections, four Defensive Player of the year awards, four All-Star appearances, and of course, an NBA title win in 2004.
He also made stops in Chicago and yes, half a season with LeBron James and the Cavaliers, before returning to finish his career in Detroit, where his number 3 jersey now hangs in the rafters.
An underdog for a large chunk of his life, the first undrafted NBA Hall of Famer displayed a blue-collar work ethic and a hard-nosed approach throughout his 16-year career in the league.
Despite only spending a short time here with most of his tenure being on the opposite side playing for some of the Cavs’ toughest rivals, Ben Wallace is truly someone Clevelanders can appreciate and relate to.
Hats off to you, Big Ben.