WE’VE all heard the age-old sports mantra: offense wins games, defense wins championships. Well if that were true then Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman are some of the greatest champions to play the game. They combined to claim six NBA titles over a two-decade period during which the two low-post legends were regarded as the best defenders in the entire NBA. Both of them racked up their fair share of accolades, but which one had the better NBA career? It’s time to compare the pair.
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I’VE changed this category slightly to playoff contributions instead of appearances. Sometimes qualifying for a lot of playoff games has to do with the team you play with rather than focusing on the impact from the individual. Rodman qualified for the postseason three more times (11 in total) than Wallace did, despite playing in two fewer seasons (16 for Wallace, 14 for Rodman).
IF you dig into the numbers though you’ll learn that Rodman’s averages all declined in the playoffs, while Wallace gets better in almost every category. Rodman may have five titles compared to Wallace’s one and by no means was Dennis a passenger on those title teams. Wallace had a bigger impact for a longer period of time in the postseason though, giving him the win in this section.
NEITHER of these players where known for their work on the offensive side of the ball. In fact, I can say with the utmost confidence that this is the first (and probably last) time two players in the CTP argument both players average single-figure scoring totals for their careers (Wallace 5.7 PPG, Rodman 7.3 PPG). There was one season when Rodman scored 11.6 per contest, but the occasional putback dunk was the limit of their offensive talents.
BOTH players struggled mightily shooting free throws as well, although Rodman’s 58.4% is much better than Wallace’s 41.4%. In fact, Rodman edges out Wallace in a lot of offensive aspects, even if Rodman’s averages are still below average. He did connect on more than half his shots from the field, which is something Wallace can’t say and for someone of such incredible defensive talent, averaging 7.3 points isn’t that bad.
Image from nba.com
THIS is where the real competition begins. Ben Wallace was the anchor of the Pistons dominant 00’s teams. He was a better rim protector than Rodman and is the Pistons all-time blocks leader. Wallace was a beast rebounding the ball as well, despite only standing at 6′ 9″, leading the league in rebounds twice and chalking up four Defensive Player of the Year Awards. 23 players in NBA history have recorded 1,000 steals and 1,000 blocks and Wallace is one of them. He is the only player on the list to have more career blocks than personal fouls and more career steals than turnovers. Damn.
WHILE he was a versatile star defender in the early 21st century, Dennis Rodman paved the way with his heroics in the 90’s. I won’t bore you by reeling off all the records that Rodman owns rebounding the ball, but just know, since the ABA-NBA merger in ’76 no one has really come close to the level Rodman was at feasting on the glass. Rebounding wasn’t his only defensive gift as his tenacity and defensive hustle led to him shutting down some of the greatest big men to play the game. After holding his own against the likes of Malone, Kareem and Kemp in the NBA Finals, you can see why Rodman was regarded as an all-time stopper.
IT’S a tight argument once again and Wallace deserves a lot of credit for his defensive efficiency, especially given his lack of size. Rodman was just another breed of player and there wasn’t a lot that he couldn’t do from a defensive perspective. Whether he was out there to snare 10 rebounds in a quarter or silence an All-Star big man, Rodman could do it all.
Edge: Rodman. Just
WALLACE – Block on Shaquille O’Neal
ONCE of the most iconic photos of the mid’s 2000’s is Ben Wallace’s crowning moment. It came during a Game 5 in 2006 with the Pistons in a 3-1 hole against the Miami Heat. After previously losing in the East Finals 12 months prior, Miami was keen for revenge and Shaquille O’Neal was having his way with Detroit’s bigs in the series. The 6′ 9″, 240lb Wallace wasn’t about to let Shaq have any easy baskets though and he hung in the air to force a jump ball by blocking the 7′ 1″, 325lb man’s shot in the third quarter. Of course, he then won the jump ball as well.
RODMAN – 1996 NBA Finals vs Supersonics
YOU could make the argument that Dennis Rodman deserved to be considered the MVP of the 1996 NBA Finals. Sure, Jordan’s 27.3 points a game were important, but Rodman’s 14.7 rebounds per contest probably had some say on the result too. What made Rodman’s lofty rebound totals even more impressive was the fact that a large portion of them came on the offensive glass. In fact, in Game 2 he tied the Finals record with 11 offensive rebounds against Seattle. That alone is impressive, but for good measure, Rodman grabbed another 11 rebounds on the offensive glass in a series-clinching Game 6 W.
IN a way neither player had a career littered with shining moments. Their highlight reel shows a lot of grinding and fighting for position inside a clogged paint. That being said both of these moments are awesome and Wallace’s block on Shaq was my wallpaper on my computer in Year 11, so it’s fair to say I’m a fan. I’m not biased though and Rodman’s record-tying feat gets him the win here.
FOR the first time in recent memory, this section is really, really close. On one hand, Rodman has the upper hand with championships, boasting five to Wallace’s one. Rodman can also claim more rebounding titles (7) over Big Ben (2) and more All-Defense team selections (8 to 6). However, Wallace has Rodman beat when it comes to All-Star appearances (4 to 2), Defensive Player of the Year Awards (4 to 2) and All-NBA berths (5 to 2). Some of those awards are slightly influenced by team success and at the end of the day, we tend to value winning above all. On the record front, Wallace does own some unique and impressive accolades, but Rodman’s list easily outshines Wallaces. It’s another close one, but another triumph for Dennis.
Edge: Rodman. Just
Image from sportsmockery.com
THE twin towers both own two very different personalities. Soft-spoken Ben Wallace doesn’t seem like a bad guy by any means, but there are a few misdemeanours on his resume. However, he seems to have his head on straight, recently announcing he is becoming a part owner of the Grand Rapids Drive, the Detroit Pistons’ G-League affiliate. Having his head on straight isn’t exactly a term that Dennis Rodman has heard too often, if ever. The polarizing bizarro character can often be found in news headlines or on Twitter feeds for his political opinions, trips to North Korea and occasional basketball ventures. For better or worse, no one is forgetting Rodman’s name anytime soon and no matter how insane he might be, he was an incredible NBA player as well as an entertaining personality.
WINNER – DENNIS RODMAN
IT comes as no surprise that Rodman is our winner, but it did stun me to find out how close Wallace was to the former Bulls champ. Rodman’s bulldog mentality suited the tough era he played in and allowed him to shine to his full potential. The same couldn’t be said for Ben Wallace, who was sort of forced to adapt in the more reserved 21st century. He did manage to channel his play incredibly though to make himself one of the premier defenders during his time in the league. Both players have made amazing contributions to the game and a HOF appearance should be around the corner for Wallace. In this argument though Rodman takes the cake.