Slamadamonth, SLAM #15: John Wallace
Oct. 15, 1996: The Knicks rookie introduces himself.
He’d been waiting. For four months New York Knicks rookie forward John Wallace had been waiting for his chance to show his skills on an NBA court. Sure, everybody remembers him as the guy who carried the Syracuse Orangemen on his back to the NCAA Finals last season. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the NBA.
A top-10 lock in June’s NBA Draft, Wallace was the guy left sitting in the draft room much longer than expected. Finally, at No. 18, the Knicks put him out of his misery. Rumors of a bad attitude, missed workouts, blah, blah, blah, seemed to have scared teams off. And so, after four long months of answering the same question—”Why do you think you dropped so low in the Draft?”—he was ready to show the other NBA GM’s that the mistake was, in fact, theirs.
His initial chance at redemption came during the Knicks’ first preseason meeting with Charles Barkley and the Houston Rockets. In his 14 minutes of PT, Wallace scored 6 points while grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 2 assists. Yet there was one play that really exemplified Wallace’s mixture of power and finesse.
Early in the third quarter, Houston point guard Matt Maloney attempted to dish the ball to two g Tracy Moore, chillin’ at the top of the key. Bad idea. Anticipating the pass, Wallace lunged forward, stole it and headed upcourt for a breakaway dunk. Showtime.
In one fluid motion he s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out in full extension, ball cupped in one hand, and threw down with such majestic aggression, you’da thought Doc was in the house. The crowd leapt to their feet, roaring approval. And Charles Barkley? He just smiled and shook his head, perhaps seeing a little of himself in the brash rookie.
Four long months he’d been waiting. But that night, John Wallace had waited long enough. And boy did it ever show.