Two of a Kind

Wallace, Rodman lend unique character to Pistons history

Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace have been the cornerstones of the Pistons' style of play.
Capozzola/Lippitt (NBAE/Getty)
In conjuring historical comparisons for Ben Wallace, it becomes necessary to scratch far beneath the surface. There just aren’t many historical comparisons for a 6-foot-8 guy with Wallace’s resume as a defender, rebounder and shot-blocker.

So Lawrence Frank went completely off the board, reaching into another sport for an intriguing parallel to the NBA’s four-time Defensive Player of the Year.

“Ben was like the Lawrence Taylor of the NBA,” Frank said. “You had to think about ways to keep Ben off the weak side of the floor. If he was on the weak side, like Lawrence Taylor as a weakside linebacker, they were going to pursue and block that shot. You had to tweak a lot of things you do because of him.”

The Pistons’ only seven-game series en route to the 2004 NBA title came against Frank’s New Jersey Nets. It looked like the Nets had turned the series in their favor by winning the epic triple-overtime Game 5 at The Palace to take a 3-2 lead – the game that shaped Frank’s philosophy of deliberately fouling when ahead by three points in the waning seconds – but the Pistons won Game 6 at the Meadowlands with a typically dominant defensive effort anchored by Wallace, then routed the Nets back at The Palace in Game 7.

Frank remembers the alterations he was forced to undertake by the defensive disruption Wallace stirred.

“That defense, they suffocated you,” he said. “Literally, you had to tweak things in a significant way. We used to do a lot of things. We’d play through our bigs, making them hubs. You couldn’t do that against Body. One, he would deny the heck out of it, but two, if (his opponent) had it, he would suffocate the heck out of that guy where he wasn’t used to that sort of pressure and that sort of duress.”

“That’s a great analogy by Lawrence,” Joe Dumars said. “Ben in his prime defensively was as disruptive a force as I’ve seen in this league.”

Dumars, let’s recall, was a pretty fair defender in his own right, a guy Chuck Daly trusted to guard Michael Jordan in many defining moments in Pistons history. He also played with Dennis Rodman, whose induction into basketball’s Hall of Fame bodes well for Wallace’s shot at enshrinement one day.

“He’s in that same class,” Joe D said. “I don’t know how that would go right now. It’s a ways out, but I do know that Rodman getting in is definitely a plus for Ben Wallace.”

The fact the Pistons are the team that elevated both players to prominence is one of the franchise’s most distinctive features.

“I keep saying that we have had – the Detroit Pistons organization has had – the best 6-8 defenders in the history of game,” Dumars said. “Think about how special Rodman and Ben Wallace were. The Pistons have had two of the most special defenders that you’re ever going to see.”