With talk out of Boston getting louder that Rasheed Wallace will retire this summer, we may be witnessing the end of one of the NBA’s all-time greatest coulda-been-greater careers.
For 15 years, we read that same book on ‘Sheed: He could have been … fill in the blank … if he’d wanted to be. Hall of Famer. Best power forward in the League. Franchise superstar. The Black Dirk Nowitzki. The hip-hop generation’s Willis Reed. As nasty as he wanted to be.
Even during his prime — ABC’s Mark Jackson said during Game 7 of the Finals that ‘Sheed “was one of the best power forwards in basketball for a good 10-year burst” — there was still the feeling that dude wasn’t living up to his potential as he was flirting with 20-and-10’s in Portland.
So what is Wallace’s final chapter? He’s got a ring, four All-Star nods, averages of 14.6 points and 6.7 boards. Add in a good $150 million earned, and definitely a career almost everybody would envy. But he’s got two enduring legacies: An all-time colossal hothead (he still managed to lead the League in techs this season despite playing just 22 minutes a night), and a player who should have been better than he was. In this past season with the Celtics he was like a caricature of his former self, expending more energy flipping out on refs than anything that happened before the whistle.
‘Sheed is the captain of the NBA’s All-Coulda Been Team. Who else joins him?
PG – Baron Davis
I once saw Jerry Tarkanian tell a room full of high school superstars that Baron Davis could’ve been one of the all-time greats “if he’d put his mind to it” … and Baron was sitting right there next to Tark. Baron just nodded. So did everybody else.
SG – Gilbert Arenas
He lost almost three whole years of his prime due to knee injuries and bad decisions. Arenas was arguably a Top-10 player in the NBA at the time he first tore up his knee, averaging 28 points, six assists and two steals for a mid-level Eastern Conference contending Wizards squad that seemed just a piece or two away from getting over the hump. Today, he’s being pushed aside as the face of the franchise for John Wall, and the Wizards are in disarray as one of the worst teams in the League.
SF – Grant Hill
Another legit superstar who had his best years stolen by injuries. In the season before his ankle began to betray him, Hill put up 25 points, six boards and five assists per game for the Pistons and was a nightly triple-double threat. He was going to battle Kobe Bryant as the heir to Michael Jordan‘s throne. Ten years later, Hill is (albeit a solid starter in the League) just making it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time while Kobe is being fitted for his fifth championship ring.
PF – Rasheed Wallace
Even Baron gets a little leeway due to injuries. ‘Sheed is the only guy on this list purely because of his effort, or lack thereof. His defenders say ‘Sheed was simply choosing to be a good teammate and key cog, but you can’t stack his talent up against quintessential role players like Michael Cooper and Derek Fisher and get away with that. Those guys had limits: ‘Sheed’s game was MVP caliber. And those guys have a fistful of rings. ‘Sheed has one ring and too often made himself the star of the show for the wrong reasons. It’s like he wanted the attention but not the responsibility.
C – Greg Oden
Not saying he’s done as an effective player, but any talk of “next Bill Russell” and “franchise cornerstone” surrounding Oden is all but dead. Even in college we never got to see how good G.O. could’ve been, as he played his lone season at Ohio State with his right hand wrapped in a cast.