Far away from the bright lights and the endless hype surrounding LeBron James and "The Decision," an old teammate of the King made a far less glamorous, far less-publicized decision to stay right where he was.
Two weeks ago, while LeBron was busy driving a dagger into the backs of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, former Cavalier Ben Wallace was making a commitment to the team of his glory days. In an attempt to recapture the magic of the prime years of his career, Wallace agreed to a two-year deal to remain with the Detroit Pistons.
Wallace may not be winning championships or taking home Defensive Player of the Year plaques anymore. He may not be taking the world by storm the way LeBron and his compadres in South Beach have this summer. He may not even be aging gracefully, as he’s set to turn 36 this summer and begin his 15th season this fall. But Wallace has loyalty, and you can’t put a price on that.
Wallace will remain with the Pistons for two more years, at about $1.9 million each. He’s unlikely to win much of anything in his next two years in Detroit, as the Pistons were a 55-loss team last season and look doubtful to get any better. But there’s something to be said for sticking around in the place where all the magic happened.
After being drafted by the Washington Bullets and also spending a brief stint in Orlando, Wallace played six years in a Pistons uniform between 2000 and 2006. He made five playoff appearances during that stretch, reaching the Eastern Conference finals four times and the NBA Finals twice. He finally won a ring in 2004, at age 29. Wallace was the star of the deciding game, as he gave the Pistons 18 points, 22 rebounds and three steals in their Game 5 win over Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Wallace was in his prime and making the most of it.
Those days are now long gone. Chauncey Billups, the MVP of those Finals, is in Denver. Rasheed Wallace is in Boston, mulling over retirement. Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are still around, but both have also aged quickly and not so gracefully.
Wallace jumped ship in 2006 to Chicago, where his Bulls were promptly bounced from the playoffs the next season by an all too familiar foe: the Pistons. He then spent a year and a half in Cleveland, where he tried and failed to be that final piece that would get LeBron and the Cavaliers over the hump.
Eventually, he realized his calling to be a Piston again, returning to the Motor City with a one-year contract signed on Aug. 7 of last year.
He endured a miserable season last year. And yet, faced with the opportunity to leave town and chase bigger things, Wallace chose to stay.
Wallace will remain in Detroit, where he plans to retire when all’s said and done. And while he no longer has the supporting cast around him to be a winner, he’s got the heart to stick with his Pistons through thick and thin, and he’s still got a championship ring that no one can take away from him.
Ben Wallace has achieved everything in his career with hard work. He was an undrafted free agent back in 1996, and it took all the effort in the world to get a job in the NBA and keep it.
Nearly a decade and a half later, Wallace has been to the top of the mountain and back again. He’s been there, done that, and now returned for one last victory lap. He’s earned it.