Ben Wallace – Traitors Welcome?


The story of NBA basketball player, Ben Wallace, reads like a made-for-TV movie. It’s inspirational. It has a person over-coming seemingly insurmountable odds to live the dream. But like many made-for-TV movies, it ends with a sour taste in your mouth.  TV movies never seem to get the 3rd and final act just right and you’re ultimately reminded why it’s just on TV.

So goes the career of Ben Wallace.

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Most All-Star NBA players were scouted when they were just in high school and then get pampered all through college (if they even go). Ben Wallace didn’t get this star treatment and he had to scratch and claw to get in the NBA, and then to eventually become an All-Star.

Eventually it paid off in 2004, when Ben Wallace along with other talented but under-appreciated players like Richard Hamilton and Chauncy Billups won a NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons.

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A couple of years later, the Pistons were still one of the best teams in the NBA, but couldn’t quite get over the hump to win their second championship. Ben Wallace was still the celebrated player in Detroit and considered the heart and soul of the team and even the franchise. But his contract was about to expire and instead of rewarding the team and the city that made him an All-Star, he ditched them and went with a lesser team (Chicago Bulls) that offered more money. 

He didn’t fare well in Chicago and then got traded to the Cleveland Cavilers. Injuries set him back even further and got traded again this summer. He was on the verge of retirement, but decided to come back and make a second run in Detroit, the city that made him famous.

Unfortunately, the Pistons are now a shell of their former selves. Players have left and there have been numerous coaching changes. The Pistons are basically in a rebuilding phase. Still, should Ben Wallace be welcomed back? He chose to get his big pay day over team and city loyalty. When he originally left Detroit, the difference wasn’t that big in the money the Pistons offered him compared to Chicago. The Pistons offered him 54 million, Chicago offered him 60 million. Not a very big difference I think. Not big enough to abandon the city and all its fans.

Ben Wallace isn’t the only one who’s done this. Many players in the past decade and a half have chased the biggest contract over team loyalty. In some ways I sympathize because basketball players have to make the majority of their money over a 7-12 year period that may have to last them for the rest of their life. However once we get into these big multi-million dollar contracts, I think that’s less of a concern unless they’re really bad with money.

The real problem the last 10-15 years is sports agents.

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Sports agents get a cut of the athlete’s contract they help negotiate with teams. So obviously the bigger the contract, the more money the agents get. Yes they help the athlete’s get more money as well, but now it’s just been reduced to a bidding war, which the sports agents encourage. The agents could care less about team loyalty. The agents want the athletes to sign-up with any team that will offer the most money, regardless of the history they have with a team.

So while I’m not really thrilled to see Ben Wallace come back to Detroit, he may have been a victim of an aggressive sports agent when he originally left several years ago. Clearly his heart is still with the Pistons.

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