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Monday, June 28, 2010

The End of An Era: Farewell Rasheed Wallace

        Just a short few days ago the Los Angeles Lakers went on to win the franchises 16th NBA Championship in game 7 against their rival Boston Celtics. In the aftermath of their celebration Celtics F/C Rasheed Wallace waited patiently outside the refs locker room. Normally hearing this one might think that Wallace was there wanting to argue with the refs about fouling out in the finals minutes of the game but it seemed that Wallace had another reason. He just wished to speak with the veteran refs as a farewell to his playing career. He might not have always gotten along with the officials but you cannot deny the respect he has for their profession and the game of basketball itself. After a few minutes arena security came by and had ‘Sheed leave still dressed in his jersey with a towel wrapped around his neck he made his way back to his team to leave the Staples Center for the final time.
        In the postgame interview Doc Rivers praised ‘Sheeds play, "He was a warrior. You know, I don't know if Rasheed will ever play again. You know, he's one of them. I think he took that out on the floor with him. I think he's thinking about retiring, and I thought you could see that in his play." After hearing this, the reports started coming out that Rasheed was set to retire nothing was final but we all knew he was done. Knowing that he has 2 years left on the contract he signed last summer Wallace hasn’t and probably won’t sign and turn in his retirement papers so that the Celtics can use him as a trading chip to clear up cap space or bring in a player who can help them. It’s these little things that show us who Wallace really is. He has always been portrayed as a person who can’t keep his anger or immaturity in check, as he’s the NBA leader in career technical fouls; he’s just a player who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s going to let you know how he feels about something but all his teammates and coaches say he one of the best teammates around.
        For me personally this is a sad day in sports, Rasheed might not have always done the right thing while playing basketball but when called upon he was always up to the challenge. A lot has been said about him coasting through the regular season this year and playing his way into shape instead of coming in that way. That can’t be denied he stated himself that he wasn’t brought in for the regular season but for the playoffs, and that’s exactly how he played. Rethinking about game 7 makes me recall a younger ‘Sheed when he played for my hometown Portland Trailblazers. He didn’t have the greatest stats but he played his usually great low post defense, voiced his opinion and concerns during play and timeouts and was an emotional leader.
        Wallace may not make it into the Hall of Fame but nobody can say he didn’t have Hall of Fame talent; he was a player who just enjoyed playing the game. Back in 2007 Charles Barkley stated that if Wallace had the mindset of Kobe Bryant he would have been the best player in the league. He didn’t want to be a superstar even though he has all the tools, great low post threat that can get his shot off against anyone and someone who can go out and spread the floor. Maybe he played away from the basket to often but when your 6’11 and can shoot the 3 as well as him it’s easy to stand out there and fire them up. For the last 15 seasons we have all been fascinated with Rasheed whether it was with his on court outburst, his postgame interviews or his suburb talent the NBA won’t be the same without him.
        On a closing note I wanted to list a few of my favorite ‘Sheed stories, the first happened the summer after he graduated high school. He was selected to the McDonald All-American game as one of the best senior players in the country. In the game he played his normal game he went 4-7 with 9 points but the thing that really stands out is that he became the first and only player to ever be ejected from it. Another story was during practice while at the University of North Carolina “during a scrimmage Wallace’s freshman year. Montross and Salvadori had been pushing Wallace up and down the court, double teaming him down low and talking shit the whole time. Evidently Wallace went up for a turnaround jumper in the lane only to have Montross and Salvadori club him and block his shot. Each telling him to never bring that shit inside again. Next time down the court Wallace caught a ball coming off of the rim at which time he did one of his backboard shaking monster dunks (a 9.5 on Pat Sullivan's grading scale) on Montross and Salvadori. Upon landing on his feet Ra pushed Montross into Salvadori and yelled, "You better recognize. Motherf***er! Your job is mine!" This outburst infuriated Montross as he chased Wallace down the court as the entire team tried to break it up. Rasheed ran laps for the rest of the practice.” (story courtesy of http://www.detroitbadboys.com/2006/4/3/1214256/100-reasons-and-more-to-love). Anyway we’ll obviously see another player who doesn’t play up to their talent level but we will never get another player with the personality of Rasheed. Here’s a quote from former Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy on ‘Sheed that sums him up nicely, “When I was coaching in Portland, I had Rasheed Wallace. He was a great player and somebody everyone on the team liked. The thing was, he just didn't want to be the go-to guy at the end of a game. He didn't want you to call a play for him, yet if you gave him the ball at the end he would deliver. To counter that, I would run a play for somebody else, even though the ball would ultimately wind up in Rasheed's hands. I'd tell him, "OK, Rasheed, we're going to run a play for Scottie Pippen. Pipp, you come off that screen and knock down that 17-foot jumper." And then as they were walking away from the huddle, I'd grab Pipp and tell him, "Don't even think about shooting that jump shot. Drop the ball into Rasheed." And he'd do that, and Rasheed would turn around and hit the game-winner off the glass.” Well there you have it I wish Rasheed the best in his post career endeavors and I will miss watching him play this game that he so loved.

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