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Rasheed Wallace Biography - Joined the UNC Tar Heels, Began Pro Career with Washington Bullets

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1974–

Professional basketball player

Wallace, Rasheed, photograph. Danny Moloshok/Reuters/Landov.

There is no denying Rasheed Wallace's skill on the basketball court: the one-time fourth pick in the NBA draft is a two-time All Star, and he has averaged 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game during his career. Wallace began his career with the Washington Bullets and spent eight years with the Portland Trail Blazers before being traded to the Detroit Pistons, who he helped take to the NBA Finals in 2004 and 2005, winning the first time out. Unlike many players in the NBA, Wallace is known for being unselfish with the ball, willing to do whatever it took to win games. Though many fans love Wallace, he has also earned more than his share of enemies thanks to his flamboyant on- and off-court demeanor. While his passion for the game is unmistakable, Wallace claims he would like nothing more than to spend time with his family and help others in the community.

Rasheed Abdul Wallace was born on September 17, 1974, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother, Jackie Wallace, worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. His father, Sam Tabb, played street basketball and was in and out of his son's life through out his childhood. Wallace and his two older brothers, Malcolm and Muhammad, lived in the Germantown area of North Philadelphia. Though he played basketball and was destined to make it a career, another of Wallace's passions was art. He attended the legendary Simon Gratz High School (known for its athletic excellence) and took an art class, where he amazed his teacher with his natural ability. After two years, however, he was pulled from the class so he could focus on basketball.

Joined the UNC Tar Heels

During his high school years, Wallace was taught the fundamentals of basketball. Couple that with his natural ability, and he was a force to be reckoned with. He also learned that what mattered was a team win, so he would pass the ball to other players and ask to be taken out of the game so other team members could play whenever Gratz had a big enough lead. In addition to playing basketball, Wallace also ran track and did the high jump. During high school he was named USA Today's High School Player of the Year for the 1992–93 season and was selected to Basketball Digest's All-America First Team. And though he was more known for basketball, Wallace also received honors as a sprinter, ranking fourth in the Philadelphia area.

Wallace's athletic prowess soon brought the attention of college scouts and coaches from around the country. He spoke with numerous coaches, who highlighted their school's program as well as bashed other colleges, including the University of North Carolina (UNC). UNC's reputation for getting the best athletes to play but relegating them to second and third string until it was time for them to shine was attractive to Wallace. Coach Dean Smith of the men's college basketball program at UNC did, however, make an effort to recruit Wallace, even skipping his team's championship parade to talk the high school student. The 6′11″ forward signed with UNC.

At UNC Wallace continued to hone his skills as he earned an unusual amount of playing time for an underclassman. In his freshman season he scored 9.5 points per game (ppg) and 6.6 rebounds per game (rpg) while playing an average of 21 minutes. During his sophomore year his numbers increased substantially, as he averaged 16.6 ppg and 8.2 rpg while playing 30 minutes. At the end of the 1994–95 season, Wallace and the Tar Heels made it to the NCAA Final Four and Wallace was named to a second-team All American.

Began Pro Career with Washington Bullets

Though college was fun for Wallace, he entered the NBA Draft after his sophomore year. He was then selected by the Washington Bullets, fourth overall in the first round. While with the Bullets, he played both power forward and center, averaging ten points and almost five rebounds per game. During his first season, Wallace began to display the bad habits defined his reputation for a number of years (and that many chalked up to his immaturity). He was late to a number of practices, leading to fines from the team. He also received 22 technical fouls. During a game against the Orlando Magic, Wallace suffered a broken thumb and was out for the remainder of the season.

During this time, Wallace saw the birth of his son, Ishmiel, but he also experienced heartache as he and his former girlfriend, Ishmiel's mother Chiquita Bryant, fought over custody of the child. Bryant also brought charges against the power forward for allegedly assaulting her as they argued. While the two waited for a court date for the custody hearing, Wallace was given visitation rights to see his son three times a week for five hours. The basketball player was charged with disorderly conduct when he was denied permission to take his son from the daycare center his former girlfriend had enrolled him in without Wallace's knowledge. Later, Wallace was granted full custody of Ishmiel, but Bryant took off with the child. Neither authorities nor private detectives could locate the two, and for almost two years Wallace knew nothing of the whereabouts of his son. After a pleading for help in locating his son during a game aired on cable network TNT, authorities received an anonymous tip from a viewer in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, that led them to Wallace's former girlfriend and their son. Father and child were reunited on Christmas Day, 1998.

Meanwhile, Wallace was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. Considered an all-around player who could shoot, pass, and rebound, the franchise built a team around Wallace. Wallace again broke his thumb, however, and had to sit out for most of his first season with the Trail Blazers. He returned in time to help the team in the first round of playoffs, but the Blazers eventually lost to the L.A. Lakers.

At a Glance …

Born Rasheed Abdul Wallace on September 17, 1974, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Jackie Wallace and Sam Tabb; married Fatima; children: Malik (adopted son of Fatima), Ishmiel (from previous relationship), Nazir, Rashiyah. Education: Attended University of North Carolina, 1993–95.

Career: Washington Bullets, professional basketball player, 1995–96; Portland Trail Blazers, professional basketball player, 1996–2004; Atlanta Hawks, professional basketball player, 2004; Detroit Pistons, professional basketball player, 2004–; Jammin' 95.5, Portland, OR, deejay for weekend show. Rasheed A. Wallace Foundation, founder, 1997–.

Awards: NBA All-Star Team, 2000, 2001; NBA Championship, with Detroit Pistons, 2004.

As Portland's star player, Wallace led the team in scoring. He also ranked third in the NBA in field goal percentage. Between his first and second season he resigned with the team, this time for a lengthier term and increase in pay. In the 1997–1998 season, Wallace saw his stats increase, but none of that mattered to him. His only wish was for a win. He continued to impress the fans with his play, and helped the team continue toward their goal of winning another NBA Championship.

Disruptive Behavior Made Him a Pariah

The Portland Trail Blazers organization sought to increase the team's chances of a championship, adding All-Star after All-Star to the roster. Yet Wallace's behavior seemed to spiral out of control, seemingly from the pressure. He began fighting with the referees over every perceived miscall. While most players and coaches argued to a certain point or even earned a technical before backing down, Wallace did not stop until he was ejected. At times, he would not stop even then. There were times fans even tried to get him to calm down. According to Sports Illustrated, during one heated argument with a referee, one fan yelled, "It's all right, 'Sheed. Just chill, just chill." But according to the Detroit Free Press, "'Sheed believes if there is a questionable call, he must protest…."

Wallace's positive stats continued to rise—reaching a high of 19.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg in the 2001–2002 season—but so did his technical fouls. In one season he received 38 technical fouls, only to follow that with 41 fouls the next season. His teammates and the coaching staff were at a loss in helping him keep his anger with the refs in check. In one instance he threw a towel in one referee's face, earning a two-game suspension and a $10,000 fine. Later Wallace threatened another referee and received a seven-game suspension.

Wallace also began acting out off the courts by refusing to sign autographs, ignoring fans, fighting with teammates, and refusing to give interviews, despite it being mandatory by the NBA. Though he acquiesced to the locker room interviews by taking his time changing and only answering a few questions filled with expletives, Wallace continued showing disdain during mandatory team events, including an appearance where he and others from the Portland organization gave Christmas trees to needy families in the Portland area.

While his teammates and head coach Mike Dunleavy tried to downplay Wallace's antics by talking to him both on and off the court, it soon took a toll on a team already at odds with one another over various things including playing time. Even though he would help the team make it to the playoffs every year starting in 1996, and twice reach the Western Finals, many were ready for a change. Wallace and fellow player, Damon Stoudamire, did not help the team's image by getting arrested after marijuana was found in the vehicle they were in. The charges were later dropped after each completed community service, stayed out of legal trouble, and underwent drug and alcohol counseling. But the damage had been done. Though it was not the first time a Portland Trail Blazer had been arrested, by the early 2000s this incident and others had earned the team a new nickname: the Portland Jail Blazers.

Found Home in Detroit

While rumors floated that Wallace would soon be traded, he made the task more difficult in 2003 by making comments in the Oregonian quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer that NBA and Commissioner David Stern only "drafted n― who were dumb and dumber." Many decried his statements, and Wallace apologized for using street language but he stood by what he said. While a number of organizations expressed interest in the talented power forward, a few reconsidered.

However, over the All-Star break in early 2004, Wallace was traded to the Atlanta Hawks. He played one game, then was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Though his new teammates were a little worried, his new coach, Larry Brown, was not. The whole organization was in agreement about bringing Wallace to the Motor City.

With a fresh start, Wallace helped the Detroit Pistons win their first championship in 15 years. A team known for working hard to win a game was the right fit for Wallace. Instead of being the franchise player, he found himself in a supporting role that suited him fine. While he continued to argue with the referees, he no longer received the large number of technicals he had received in the past, and his number of ejections reduced drastically. He soon signed a multi-year contract with The Pistons. Wallace was a factor in helping them reach the Finals in 2005, though they lost to the San Antonio Spurs. In Detroit Wallace largely shed the reputation as a troubled player and was widely supported by Detroit fans

Gave Back To Community

While winning championships and being on a team that understood his work ethic was important to Wallace, being a great father and loving husband has always been of equal or greater importance. In addition to his son Ishmiel, Wallace and his wife, Fatima, also had another son, Nazir, and a daughter, Rashiyah. Wallace adopted Fatima's son from a previous relationship, Malik. Wallace believes in being there for his children and even gave his wife the final say in whether he would sign with Detroit.

Though Wallace has long had a reputation as an ungrateful prima donna, very few fans know of his charitable work throughout his career. He began the Rasheed Wallace Foundation in 1997 to provide help in Portland, Philadelphia, and Durham, North Carolina. The Foundation sponsored annual coat drives, food drives, and provided grants for inner city schools and recreation centers in the three cities. Wallace also sponsored teams that needed assistance in reaching basketball tournaments. He held annual basketball camps in Philadelphia and Durham for children who hoped to reach their goals of being a professional basketball player. Finally, he has participated in the NBA's Read to Achieve program and become involved with Detroit's Kettering High School

In his spare time, Wallace pursues his love of art by doodling or visiting art museums. He also deejayed a radio show on Portland's Jammin' 95.5 radio station. He's an avid fan of pop art and collects cartoon figurines, especially Transformers, a popular cartoon from his youth.

For those who know him well, Wallace is a cool, laid-back person, one who loves his family and gives back to the community. Others, however, use terms such as stubborn, immature, and maniacal in their description of him. As he stated to the Detroit Free Press: "Everybody is not going to like you. Everybody is not going to like what you do. Fifty percent like you, 50 percent hate you. You just gotta keep walking that straight path." What no one can dispute is Wallace's talent for the game of basketball and his ability to not only win games, but also championships.

Sources

Periodicals

Dallas Morning News, May 23, 2000.

Detroit Free Press, December 21, 2001; February 19, 2004; March 25, 2004; April 16, 2004; June 3, 2004; July 23, 2004; April 24, 2005; April 28, 2005; June 15, 2005; June 21, 2005.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, May 27, 2004; June 13, 2004.

Jet, January 19, 1998, p. 39.

New York Daily News, February 18, 2004.

Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL), June 5, 2004.

Philadelphia Inquirer, December 13, 2003.

San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, CA), May 26, 2000.

Seattle Times, May 23, 2000.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 28, 2005.

Sport, April 1995, pp. 83-86.

Sporting News, April 10, 1995, p. 17; June 24, 2005, pp. 14-19.

Sports Illustrated, may 1, 2000, p. 50; March 12, 2001, p. 32.

Sports Network, April 1, 2003.

Washington Times, April 9, 1996, p. 1; June 29, 1996, p. 3; February 10, 2001, p. 1.

On-line

"Rasheed Wallace," NBA, www.nba.com/playerfile/rasheed_wallace/index.html (January 5, 2006).

Rasheed Wallace, www.rasheedwallace.com (January 5, 2006).

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