Ben Wallace Day at Tri-C
Ben Wallace, the first undrafted National Association of Basketball (NBA) Champion and Hall of Famer, relished his Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) pride during a series of dedicated events that culminated in a jersey retirement ceremony on February 15, 2023 at the Metro Campus. Wallace attended Tri-C from 1992 to 1994 and shared fond memories as a basketball player in which he averaged 26 points, 17 rebounds, and nearly 7 blocks a game.
“Thank you for honoring me today,” Wallace said during his retirement ceremony. “I have been to a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and accomplished a lot of goals in my life. But when I talk about my journey, it starts here and it ends here at Tri-C.”
Wallace also referred to his Alabama roots and his mother’s influence on him as a student athlete and NBA professional. Wallace recalled seeking counsel from his mother after recuperating from a devastating injury, which included a plan of action. His mother and older brothers were huge inspirations on his basketball career, as were many Tri-C instructors and mentors who he thanked for staying on him.
“Of all the things I am most proud of, it is having my start at Tri-C,” the NBA champion and hall of famer said during a tour of the Metro Campus. “It is top of my list. I got my brush at Tri-C.”
Anthony Franklin, Manager Athletics, Wellness and Community Recreation at Metro campus was a major force in coordinating and organizing retirement of Wallace’s jersey and bringing him back to Tri-C. After Anthony Cippolone, Executive Director of Athletics was hired in 2021, the pair began to meet with Kevin Greg, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for the Detroit Pistons to make the retirement ceremony happen.
“When I came here in 2021, I had no idea about the basketball tradition that was here, but I was soon educated by Mr. Franklin,” Cippolone said. “Soon I learned that, in a word, Ben Wallace was dominant.”
President of Tri-C, Michael Baston also spoke during the ceremony and expressed excitement of celebrating the “momentous” occasion. “We celebrate hope, inspiration, and someone who came from us,” Baston said. “It’s wonderful to know that you showed the world that if you have the courage to be yourself, you can do anything.”
During a meeting with the Tri-C Men’s and Women’s Basketball team, Wallace touched on pivotal points such as the importance of self-motivation, being a self-starter, learning communication skills, time-management, and the importance of campus interactivity for student success. Wallace also emphasized soft skills and maintaining wellness through nutrition.
After arriving at Metro around noon, Wallace graciously answered many questions about his professional basketball career during a question-and-answer session with students, faculty, and staff which included winning the 2004 NBA Championship against the Los Angeles Lakers that featured Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. During his professional basketball career, Wallace recorded 150 blocks, 100 steals, led the league in rebounding twice, and once in blocked shots. Wallace was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times, made the NBA All-Defensive team five times, was named an NBA All-Star four times, and was the first undrafted player in NBA history to be voted a starter of an NBA All-Star Game.
The ceremonious day ended with Wallace sharing his perspective on his unparalleled basketball career. “Ben Wallace is not the only or first undrafted player to make or start on an all-star team, Tri-C is the first school to put an undrafted player in the Naismith Hall of Fame,” Wallace said. “I want you to know that you are a hall of famer too, because without you there is no Ben Wallace.”