EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a letter from former Spartans and Saginaw High standout Draymond Green, who’s now a star with the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, to former Detroit Pistons defensive great Ben Wallace, who’s having his No. 3 jersey retired Saturday, when the Pistons take on the Warriors at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
It was the early 2000s and I was just a young kid growing up in the city of Saginaw, which is approximately 72 miles north of the Palace of Auburn Hills, where an undersized guy by the name of Ben Wallace was wreaking havoc for the Detroit Pistons. Ben was dominating anyone who came anywhere near the paint.
During that time, I wore a huge afro, as I thought it was cool because at home games at the Palace, Big Ben sported a huge afro as well. At 6-feet-9 (on a good day) one should never be able to be as dominant as he was. Consequently, as a kid, I wondered how in the world was he doing it. It was a mystery for about two more years.
My basketball career then took me to an AAU team in Detroit — called The Family — where I met someone that I still consider my brother, Jordan Dumars. When I met Jordan, he took me to my second-ever Pistons game and the first since I was 8 years old. That is when I had the opportunity to meet Ben and I quickly figured out how and why he was one of the most feared players to grace the court at that time in the NBA.
Ben had an incredible work ethic. Not only did he work out extremely hard every day, but more importantly, he had the heart of a lion. It was amazing because he didn’t say much, but everyone knew that he meant business.
The day came where I was able to build a relationship with Ben and, to this day, he continues to be a big brother to me. Here we are about 10 years later and a common story line has surfaced — how am I able to do what I do while undersized, just like Ben. I refuse to be outworked and I consider myself to have the heart of a lion. As I sit now, I begin to ponder, “Why was Ben’s path directed to Detroit, where I could watch every game he played?”
The only answer I can come up with is that God placed him there because a kid from Saginaw was watching with a dream of playing in the NBA. This kid would also be considered undersized, but had that similar drive and a heart that never stops pumping with determination to never be denied. It is only fitting that with my return to Michigan only a day away to play in my home state against the Detroit Pistons, Big Ben’s jersey is being retired. I feel it is only right to say THANK YOU.
Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for showing me that it is possible to make it to the NBA and wreak havoc while being undersized! Hopefully, there is a kid watching me and wondering the same things I did about you, realizing that man does not have the ability to judge what’s in another man’s heart!
Congrats, Big Ben.
All the best,