Native Son: Rasheed Wallace’s Impact on Philadelphia is Honored With a Street Sign Named After Him
“I’m comfortable dog, Brooklyn to Rome…on any Martin Luther, don’t part with your future.” – Jay Z
Philadelphia, like any place, is synonymous with things both good and bad. From the cheesesteak and Liberty Bell to the passionate sports fans and tough environment, the “City of Brotherly Love” is home to over five million people, each with a different story to tell.
Nonetheless, as the saying goes, there is no place like home, and for the residents of Nicetown and Hunting Park section, this rings especially true when someone becomes a beacon of hope in your region and places around the world.
Rasheed Wallace was the No. 1 player in the class of ’93 as a center for basketball powerhouse Simon Gratz. His name alone struck fear in the opposition, as he helped lead the Bulldogs to three Philadelphia Public League titles and two National Championships. Decades later, what he accomplished in high school remains close to his heart, and he even has a bulldog tattooed on his left arm.
No matter where the game takes him though, North Philly will continue to be at the forefront as a place that fostered his growth and development. His former high school’s gym was even named Rasheed Wallace Gymnasium, with the court paying homage to his legendary coach Bill Ellerbee.
Now, the City of Philadelphia is continuing to honor his legacy by renaming the intersection of 18th and Hunting Park Avenue as Rasheed Wallace Road, which is located on the same block as his alma mater.
“It’s a special day in Philadelphia,” says Lynard Stewart, who serves as the head coach of the boy’s basketball team at Simon Gratz. Stewart played alongside Wallace back in the day—they were a sophomore when Wallace was a senior. Their squad finished with a perfect 31-0 record that season and won a national championship.
“When I came to Gratz, [Wallace] was the number [one] player in the country and he made me so much better as an athlete, person, how to carry myself. More importantly, how I could achieve within my own life.”
From his former teammates to people around the community, Wallace’s impact is felt all over Philly.
“I think it’s really nice that he has been recognized this way,” says Jazmin Miller, a local resident and business owner. “He has actually made a change to a place that is usually discussed negatively, and this [sign] will stand to inspire everyone, especially the youth.”
The Lakers newest assistant coach has always worked to improve the surroundings and conditions of others, and his philanthropic efforts have serviced communities throughout the country. He gives from his heart, too, so much so that on the day his name was honored as street in the city, he partnered with his family, former high school teammates and coach to facilitate a free youth basketball clinic. The event also provided breakfast for every attendee and their families, along with fresh fruit and apple sauce for the community, which was available directly outside the gym.
“Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of money or material things,” Wallace says. “It’s not about the material stuff, as long as you have your loved one right there…I’m rich.”
“It’s not just for me,” he added. “It’s my name out there, but it’s everybody—that’s how I look at it because I didn’t do it by myself, it takes a village…I didn’t [put] that sign up there by myself, it was Mr. Ellerbee, my mom, couple other people, mentors, it was them.”
Photos courtesy of Nasir Wallace, Anthony Gilbert, AXG.