Monday, December 14th, 2009 at 8:00 am  |  33 responses

Decade’s Best: Defender

The four-time DPOY makes a case for the HOF.

by Sean Ceglinsky

For those who have feared the fro in the past, you’re not alone.

Before we go any further, keep in mind that no one in the NBA will ever go on record saying they’re afraid of Ben Wallace. It‘s not going to happen. But behind closed doors, there’s plenty of cats in the League willing to give him props for dominating things on the defensive end of the floor the better part of the last 10 years.

Think about it, Wallace was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times during a five-year span, winning back-to-back awards twice (2002, 2003 and 2005, 2006) to become the first player to pull off the feat in the history of the game. Jordan and Rodman never did it. Olajuwon and Mourning both failed to do so as well.

Along with Dikembe Mutumbo, Wallace is the only individual to take home the hardware on four different occasions since the inception of the honor in 1983. For the record, Sidney Moncrief won things the first time around. Best believe that dude could play some defense back in the day. He got after it, straight up.

Now, let’s get back to talking about Wallace. He is, after all, going to be the topic of conversation the rest of the way. That said, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise for SLAMonline readers to learn that Big Ben is the Defender of the Decade.

Let the controversy begin.

Some might think Kevin Garnett, or perhaps fellow post player Tim Duncan, are more worthy of the lofty defensive distinction. Others might give the nod to someone like Kobe Bryant, perhaps Ron Artest, maybe even Bruce Bowen, each of whom has put plenty of opponents on lockdown in the past. There’s no disputing that.

Rest assured, everyone was given a fair amount of consideration, KG in particular. Playing in Minnesota for all those years, unfortunately, hurt his chances.

Wallace, on the other hand, was in the right place at the right time. Eventually, that is. After college life at Virginia Union, a small Division II school, he made a couple of stops with the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards, of course) and Orlando Magic.

He signed with Detroit during the ’00-01 season. And somehBen Wallaceow, someway, he defied the odds, managed to work his way into the rotation and ended up averaging 13.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. It was a sign of good things to come.

In his first six years with the Pistons, Wallace made the All-NBA Defensive first team five times (2002-2006) and the second-team once (2007). During that span, he annually ranked among the league leaders in blocks and rebounds.

For his efforts, Wallace was selected to the NBA All-Star team four times in the last 10 years and even graced the cover of ESPN NBA 2K5, a sure sign that his approach to the game was appreciated by fans and corporate America, alike.

Perhaps the lone blemish on his otherwise outstanding decade-long resume was his infamous altercation with Artest that ended up sparking the Malice at the Palace melee in 2004. Then again, Wallace was merely defending his honor, his house, similar to the way he defended things in the paint for the last 10 years, or so.

He spent a couple seasons in Chicago and another two in Cleveland, but finally, Wallace is back in Detroit this year. Low and behold, he’s up to his old tricks, once again in the starting lineup for the Pistons, crashing the boards with reckless abandon while attempting to block each and every shot in his general vicinity.

Odds are, this time around, Wallace won’t come close to enjoying the same kind of success he did a few short years ago, back when everyone feared the fro. Suppose it really doesn’t matter when you consider all the serious damage Big Ben has done on the defensive end of the floor over the course of the past decade.


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • Hoodsnake

    And he’s only 6’7. Wow.

  • tom

    i like what shane battier is doing for years…same as big ben, even though i guess they have a very different approach to their game :)

  • Taisen

    rodman should get HOF before the Fro’.

  • http://www.nba.com Light

    Big Ben! Too bad he cant use #3

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    It’s actually scary how many rebounds he could get in his prime.

  • Captain Awesome

    Should be Bruce Bowen

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    You guys should make it a tie, seriously.. The best interior defender is B. Wallace.
    But the best perimeter defender in the last ten years is DEFINITELY Shane Battier.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    The fact that Shane Battier has never won a Defensive Player of the Year award is a joke. That he was put on the All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team, while Kobe, LeBron, and Wade made 1st is a complete joke.

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  • http://www.sixers.com 360vue

    UNDRAFTED! complete animal. @ Captain Awesome no… @Teddy right there with you

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    The scary thing about Big Ben, though, is that in his prime, he could come out on the perimeter and guard smaller guys. He was really that fast. And his timing was (and still is) unbelievable.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Wallace beasted the entire past decade.

  • http://nbaroundtable.wordpress.com/ Dave

    I’d pick Tim Duncan as the decade’s best defender.

    Dikembe Mutombo, Big Ben, and Kevin Garnett would be my next three choices in some/any order.

  • http://nbaroundtable.wordpress.com/ Dave

    I’d go with Ron Artest as the best wing defender.

    He was amazing back in Indiana. I don’t think Battier or Bowen ever reached/matched/surpassed Artest’s level of performance defensively during that period. Plus Artest was very good-to-excellent before (Chicago) and after (Sacramento, Houston and LA) that period.

  • Sparker

    i remember the first time i watched him put the squeeze on shaq and bend him to his will. i couldn’t f-ing believe it.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    bowen was the best perimeter defender of the 00s. check the stats, all first team defense lots of times, rings, he could guard nash one series, then dirk the next, nobody battled kobe harder and better. plus the rings to show it worked. ben inside, bowen collector outside.

  • http://slamonline.com Jacob J

    This is so true. He is one of the hardest working players in NBA history is feels at home in Detroit again. If that aint enough he has grabbed 18 rebounds twice this year and shut down post players. SLAM, you guys seriously need to give him an article or cover or something thats all Im asking. He is well deserving of it to.

  • http://www.sonicbids.com doyouwantmore

    There is some correlation between awesome haircuts and defensive capability. I added some decade awards of my own. \

    -Best comeback – Birdman
    -Filthiest mouth – KG
    -Best descent into obscurity – Starbury
    -Best injury – Shaun Livingston (no disrespect. But that broken knee was monstrous)
    -Best effort – Dwyane Wade
    -Best overseas player – Dirk (Barely)
    -Best luck- Marko Jaric
    -Best flopper – Andersen Varejao

  • LA Huey

    I think it’s a tie between Bowen and Wallace. Bowen has a bad rep but the Spurs would often leave him to guard perimeter players on an island (and that’s saying something considering the Spurs defensive mantra and in this era of no-hand-checks)

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    If Ben Wallace gets int he HOF over Dennis Rodman, the earth should end in 2012. I would take KG over Wallace and I hate that trash talking picking on ___ boys self. People forget the other Wallace played a part in making Ben look good too.

  • LCD screen cleaner

    OF COURSE slam doesnt mention Bowen. It’s coz they don’t like him. But I agree with the selection. Tim and KG have been less than perfect in the second half of the decade. But I dont think Ben will get the HoF recognition.

  • J

    4 DPOY’s and the decades best defender i could agree. but in the case of going to HOF, i think Rodman should be first…

  • http://slamonline.com Dave

    Hey, who’s using my name? WTF?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ Seed, Ben Wallace was doing his thing before Sheed came into town. He got his first DPOY before sheed and the second one he played half the season without Sheed. Ben Wallace is the only player this decade that I have seen completely take over a game without scoring a single point on a regular basis.

  • FoCo

    What are all you people talking about Bruce Bowen for? This is the best defender of the decade not the dirtiest player.

  • http://www.sixers.com 360vue

    @The Seed, I second Wayno, that Sheed comment is nonsense. Having seen Big Ben manhandle our centres and forwards for the best part of the decade in playoff match ups and during the season… He undoubtedly benefited from being surrounded by strong D players, and being under a coaches who were defensively minded but leading the league in bounds and blocks, the NBA DPOY, the All Defensive teams, the All NBA teams, the All Star appearance he all achieved off of his own back

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Cosign the seeds little rant about rodman. But Wallace made himself a great defender, if anything, which should be a little bit obvious given recent events, Ben Wallace probably made Rasheed Wallace look a lot better then he was/is at defense.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Trivia Question: When is the last time Sheed posted up this year?

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Trick question, he hasn’t!

  • tavoris

    @teddy…Sheed has been pretty much banished from the 3 point line the last 4 or 5 games.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    It’s pretty funny that Bruce Bowen, who most definitely was the perimeter defender of the decade, also went undrafted. There’s always a way into the L if you’re willing to do the dirty work. No pun intended.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    good point Russ.

  • steve

    GARY PAYTON every1, he was the filthiest lock down PG in the game…”THE GLOVE”