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Video: Ben Wallace birthday celebration brings memories of soul-crushing block on Shaquille O’Neal

ben wallace

Detroit Pistons legend Ben Wallace turns 44 years old on Monday, and his birthday celebration brings memories of this soul-crushing block on Shaquille O’Neal of the Miami Heat during Game 5 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals.

O’Neal, who had been known to crush everything in his path to the basket throughout his career, succumbed to Wallace, as he attempted to spike the ball into the hoop. Wallace used his superior timing and athleticism to block the attempt, forcing a jump ball and consequently gaining possession over the 7-foot-1 O’Neal, despite giving up four inches in height.

The Pistons would go on to win comfortably 91-78, but lose the next game, eliminating them from playoff contention.

Yet this was hardly the first time Wallace had proven to bother O’Neal, as he tormented him throughout the 2004 NBA Finals, getting countless strips from the post and sacrificing his body over a hulking Hall of Famer, who had a solid 70-pound advantage over his 6-foot-9, 240-pound frame.

Wallace went undrafted in the talent-infused 1996 NBA Draft, but carved a niche in the league due to his superior defense, intangibles, and a never-ceasing motor — traits he would carry to the Detroit Pistons for his fifth year in the league, forging a reputation as a starting big man and winning four Defensive Player of the Year awards, tying another defensive great in Dikembe Mutombo.

The Virginia Union product snared a career-high 15.4 rebounds per game in 2002-03 and another best of 3.5 blocks the year before — making it three consecutive seasons averaging three rejections or more.

During that period (2002-04), Wallace became the only player in NBA history to record at least 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks in three consecutive seasons, according to Jason Kubatko of StatMuse — making him one of the most dominant defensive forces of his era.

This block on O’Neal exemplifies what a rare gem he was.