Famous for uttering the phrase “Ball Don’t Lie!” when his opponents would miss free throws off of what he thought were bad calls by NBA officials, Rasheed Wallace was never considered to be a possible “face of the league” due to his rather colorful personality.
Drafted by the Washington Wizards in 1995, Sheed was traded to Portland Trail Blazers after being named to the All-Rookie second team, becoming a key member of a team that would be later referred to as “The Jail Blazers” due to their antics on and off the court. NBA Fans remember Wallace for leading the league in technical fouls and his toughness which people often mistook for thug-like behavior, instead of his many talents on the basketball court.
Rasheed was one of the original stretch big men who caused match-up problems for his ability to attack both in the post and from beyond the arc, even the most versatile big men in the league, such as Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett, did not have that kind of range. Despite his unique skill, Wallace was labeled a head case after his long stint with Portland until they finally decided to trade him to Detroit in 2003.
Sheed became the missing piece to the Pistons’ puzzle as he gave Detroit multiple options on offense and helped Ben Wallace anchor the team’s tenacious defense. Still, Rasheed could never shake the negative labels placed on him despite winning a championship, playing peacemaker during the Malice in the Palace, and contributing to a championship-level team in Boston later in his career. This misconception of Wallace has bothered many of his former teammates, including former NBA player Jermaine O’Neal.
“Perception that’s out there is that he gets technicals, he’s crazy, but Sheed is a family man, who is about his community, who just loves to play basketball but didn’t like people all the time because of the conclusions that they drew up. I wasn’t surprised to see him do what he did.”Jermaine O’Neal, The Right Time with Bomani Jones
Jermaine refers to the Malice and the Palace, an interesting episode in the careers of all those involved, where Rasheed Wallace was one of the players trying to keep things from going out of hand. History, of course, tells us that their efforts to prevent chaos were unsuccessful, but what is bothersome here is that despite his good intentions and actions, Wallace never lived down the thug image.
“This (The Malice in the Palace) then had a big effect on how the league started to present themselves going forward.”Bomani Jones, The Right Time with Bomani Jones
It sure did, as the league turned to a new set of stars in LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Kobe Bryant to carry the league while putting guys like Allen Iverson, J.O., and Sheed in their rear-view mirror. These were the best players in the league at that point, cast to the side and labeled as thugs because they got into a big fight, wore cornrows and tattoos.
What happened in Detroit that night was nothing to condone by any means, but somehow there is reason to believe that the characters in that story and others like them paid too steep of a price for an altercation that happens more often than one might think, albeit in varying degrees of ugliness. Now, nearly 20 years later, Jermaine O’Neal and others try to explain their side of the story with the release of Untold: Malice in the Palace, hoping the public will listen.
Untold is overall a sports documentary series that, in addition to the Malice at the Palace, covers topics like connections between organized crime mafia and the Trashers, a hockey team that was ultimately targeted by an FBI investigation, and tennis star Mardy Fish and how anxiety almost ended his career. The five-episode series drops on August 10.