Rasheed Wallace had a tremendous career spanning 16 seasons with four All-Star appearances and one championship with the 2004 Detroit Pistons, where his midseason addition helped push the Pistons into the elite of the league, led by one of the all-time great team defenses the NBA has seen.
Wallace is now in Memphis as an assistant coach with Penny Hardaway, where he’ll look to impart some wisdom from his long career to this current generation. Sheed has seen a number of basketball eras in his day, playing ball in the early 90s at North Carolina before entering the league in 1995 and not retiring for good until 2013. The game saw plenty change over those years, which allows Wallace to speak to how differently things were when he came into the league to now, but it also makes it difficult to narrow down exactly one era to which he belongs.
On a recent episode of the Million Dollaz Worth of Game podcast, Wallace was a guest and the conversation shifted to what current players would’ve been a “beast” or “soft” in his era, with Rasheed saying he didn’t think LeBron James would’ve been as successful in his era as he is now.
“In my era, he probably would’ve done good with his physical stature, with him being a little bit bigger than the majority of the rest [of the players],” Wallace said. “So he probably would’ve held his own, but I don’t think he would be as successful as he is now. Now it’s…man, he’s doin it. Young bull doin’ it. It’s a whole different era back then… I think he would’ve held his own. I couldn’t necessarily say that he would’ve been a beast, but I think he would’ve held his own.”
It’s important to note that Sheed is sure not to say James would’ve been “soft” as the hosts press him on “beast or soft” — he does say James Harden would’ve been soft — but even so, it’s hard to imagine any era where James wouldn’t be one of the absolute best players in the league.
As many pointed out when Wallace’s quote started to go viral, he and LeBron were contemporaries and played against each other for half of Wallace’s career — most notably when James lit up Wallace and the Pistons in the 2007 Playoffs in his real “arrival” moment on that stage. Older players often fall into the trap of being unwilling to even consider the idea that their era wasn’t the best, but it’s particularly interesting with Wallace because his era and LeBron’s have so much overlap that we saw how James would fare in a lot of those years and the answer was “really, really well.”