When casual NBA viewers think of Rasheed Wallace, they remember how he always seemed to be one second from erupting into a tantrum. Yet almost everyone who spent time around him tells a very different story.
A new tell-all book, “Jail Blazers: How the Portland Trail Blazers Became the Bad Boys of Basketball” by Kerry Eggers, features the player affectionately known as ‘Sheed on the cover and reveals a number of sordid — if not entirely surprising — details about the late-1990s and early-2000s Blazers, who were as well known for their unconventional personalities as they were for their exploits on the court. In an excerpt published on SI.com, Stephanie Smith-Leckness, a former flight attendant on the team jet, shares several unsavory stories involving Scottie Pippen, J.R. Rider, Maurice Cheeks and others.
But Smith-Leckness doesn’t have one bad word to say about Wallace.
“He was one of the few guys on those teams who never did anything like that,” she told Eggers. “Rasheed gave me a card one time that said, ‘Thank you so much for all you’ve done. I love you.’ He was like a kindred spirit. Everyone thought he was really mean. He was wonderful in a lot of ways.”
She even calls Wallace “one of my favorite men in the world.”
Boston Celtics fans won’t be shocked by this characterization. Players lauded him as a model teammate during his one season in Boston, and his fellow Detroit Pistons said the same about him throughout his tenure in the Motor City.
It might be hard to level this reputation with the guy who holds the NBA record with 317 career technical fouls, including a single-season record 41 techs in 2000-01, not to mention him taking part in the 2004 “Malice at the Palace” (although many contend he largely took a peacekeeping role). But one of the best measures of a person is how they treat people they have absolutely nothing to gain by being nice to, and it speaks volumes that a low-level employee who was sometimes mistreated by other players singles out Wallace as always treating her with respect.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports Images
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