Rasheed Wallace is a phenomenal athlete, NBA star, and competitor, and his career achievements include an NBA Championship in 2004, four NBA All-Star selections, and many playoff series victories.
Unfortunately, his career is also marked by a long string of questions about what could have been had he prepared just a little more, conditioned himself just a little more, or been a little more disciplined.
His career highlights can be found on any biographical website, but I will discuss some moments in Wallace's career that he would probably rather forget than mourn the lost potential.
In Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, the Portland Trailblazers were tied 79-79 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant made two of two free throws.
Portland came back and Rasheed Wallace was fouled, earning two free throws with his team now losing 81-79 in Los Angeles. Rasheed missed both free throws despite averaging 77 percent that year in the playoffs.
He choked. We all know how that series turned out.
Fast-forward five years to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and Wallace is seeking his second-straight title with the Detroit Pistons playing against the San Antonio Spurs. Wallace played only 28 minutes due to foul trouble and the Pistons, despite holding a 48-39 lead in the third quarter, lost the game and the Championship.
Rasheed Wallace performed admirably in the 2004 NBA Finals when the Pistons were underdogs to the over-hyped Lakers. As favorites a year later, he struggled to stay in the game or play with composure and help his team hold the lead they built.
In 2007 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the deciding Game 6, Rasheed Wallace's team entered the fourth quarter down just one point and needing a win to force a Game 7 on their home court.
Unfortunately, Rasheed Wallace lost his composure, fouled out with more than seven minutes left in the game, then got slapped with his second technical of the game to get ejected from the building. The two technicals cost his team points. And he played only 30 minutes.
After two more years of playoff disappointment, Rasheed Wallace left Detroit and signed with the Boston Celtics, intending to help them with length, rebounding, and defense. He came to camp out of shape and intended to "play his way into shape" throughout the regular season.
During the NBA Finals, Rasheed Wallace was forced to start Game 7 in Los Angeles because Kendrick Perkins was injured. He started the game extremely well, scoring in the post on several possession, but the result was the same: He fouled out and his team lost.
The most frustrating part of his last game was that he missed significant minutes late in the game due to back cramps and spasms, which he acknowledged as a result of being in less than optimal conditioning.
The Boston Celtics had a 13-point third-quarter lead, reminiscent of the third-quarter lead the Pistons held over the Spurs in 2005. Again, Rasheed Wallace had foul trouble, and this time also suffered from his poor conditioning.
Could the Boston Celtics have won the 2010 NBA Championship if they had a few more minutes from Rasheed Wallace at center? We will never know the answer, but that game was so close and so competitive that it is certainly possible.
In the past 15 years, there have been two Game 7s in the NBA Finals. Rasheed Wallace started in both of them. And Rasheed Wallace lost both of them.
He is a great player and accomplished much in his great career. But he could have done so much more.
For a player with so many playoff victories and so many wins in hostile stadiums, it is unfortunate that in some of the biggest games he has let his emotions and/or his conditioning become factors.