Former Pistons big man Rasheed Wallace is highly regarded as the piece that helped push the 2004 championship team — the ‘Goin’ to Work’ Pistons — to an elite level. Wallace teamed with Ben Wallace for a formidable frontcourt, and his ability to score on the perimeter and inside made him a valuable puzzle piece.
Wallace played alongside a plethora of great players during his 16 seasons in the NBA.
The four-time All-Star power forward played for six franchises, but he was most remembered for his time with the Portland Trail Blazers and then the Pistons.
During a recent interview on “All the Smoke,” a podcast series hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Wallace said if he had to choose four of his former teammates to play with under any of his former coaches, he’d pick the Pistons’ popular starting five — Chauncey Billups, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, himself and Ben Wallace, along with head coach Larry Brown.
Wallace’s lengthy list of teammates includes Damon Stoudemire, his third-longest tenured teammate (439 games with the Blazers) who earned the Rookie of the Year award in 1996. He also played in the same frontcourt as Zach Randolph, who became a two-time All-Star with the Memphis Grizzlies.
There was 6-time champion Scottie Pippen, who played alongside Wallace on the Blazers for 283 games after stints with the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets. Wallace’s Portland days were also joined by a young Jermaine O’Neal, before he became a six-time All-Star with the Indiana Pacers.
Some of Wallace’s teammates were also solidified Hall of Famers, such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen during his one season with the Boston Celtics after spending six seasons with the Pistons. After retiring for two seasons, Wallace returned for his final season in the NBA, this time joining Carmelo Anthony in 2012-13.
Wallace also had a notable list of NBA head coaches, including P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Dunleavy, Maurice Cheeks, Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, and Doc Rivers.
“That’s an unfair question. I’mma be biased for sure. Best five alive. The best five alive and that coach is pound-for-pound, Larry Brown,” Wallace said at the 59:35 mark of the interview. “The best five alive: Chauncey, Rip, Tay, myself and Ben. And there’s no disrespect to any of my other teammates cause they’re my brethren, but I think we felt as though we were at the pinnacle of our craft right there and couldn’t nobody in the world touch us. That’s why we coined ourselves, nicknamed ourselves the ‘Best Five Alive,’ cause we felt we were that tight-knit.”
Earlier in the interview, Wallace was asked about the Pistons’ five-game win in the NBA Finals over the Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers were seeking their fourth title in five years at that point after assembling a veteran superteam that had Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Horace Grant on their roster.
However, Wallace said the Pistons were confident that they’d get the job done, mostly because of Brown and his tendency to switch up the team’s plays during the playoffs.
“We knew we could do it. We was ready. We had the mad scientist, pound-for-pound, Larry Brown,” Wallace said. “(Brown) did a whole little flip with the playoff scheme, bro. You got your normal plays you run throughout the year, so let’s say you’re gonna call it ‘two-circle.’ On the scouting report when we play y’all, playoff time or in a big game … He changed the whole scheme up. Same thing on defense. Larry Brown is a mad scientist, bro. He knows what he’s doing. He got his style. Look at the love-hate that he had with Chuck (Allen Iverson). He’s a wizard back there.
“But, we knew it though, man. We just felt that we were more hungry. At least, for their big two with Shaq and Kobe, we felt like, ‘Alright, they got a couple of rings so they might not be as hungry,’ and dog, we were all in sync.”
In Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Wallace totaled 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Pistons to an 88-80 win over the Lakers, setting up an eventual series-clinching Game 5 in Detroit.
“We wasn’t worried about them, at all. Everybody was talking all that junk,” Wallace said. “I said it in an interview like, ‘Man, we don’t care who these cats is. Nobody’s scared of them. We worried about us. We know if we do what we supposed to do, we gon win. We know if we mess up somewhere along that line, they gon win.’ So, we weren’t worried about the pick-and-roll plays. We wasn’t worried about double-teaming Shaq or none of that. Nah. Everybody stay home. Ben got him. Everybody stay home. Let’s go. Tay did a hell of a job on Kobe. Let’s get it. We weren’t scared of them at all, bro.”
Wallace earned two of his four All-Star appearances in Detroit, including the 2006 All-Star Game in Houston. He was joined by Billups, Hamilton and Wallace as the Pistons’ four All-Stars.
Barnes also asked Wallace which jersey would be on a statue honoring his career between the Pistons or Blazers. Wallace, again, chose the city of Detroit.
“It would probably be Detroit,” he said. “What we did there, offense and defense, s— …We all were misfits in one way or another. Me, Chauncey, Rip, Ben. The only one that was natural on that team was Tay because that was the team that drafted him, but we all were somehow or someway misfits over there, so I would think it’s Detroit. Just with the love and effect of the city. It was awesome.”