J.B. Bickerstaff tells epic story about playing pickup with NBA legend Ben Wallace many years ago

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is lucky enough to have several talented big men on his team’s roster. However, this season is far from the first time that the Cavs head coach has been in the presence of elite giants.

Bickerstaff recently looked back on playing pickup with former NBA star Ben Wallace. He told the story while speaking with The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III.

“He played for my dad,” Bickerstaff said of Wallace. “There are a lot of stories with him. I’ve got a ton of respect for what he does and how he played. I don’t even know if he remembers this, but we used to play pick-up together back in Maryland, before his rookie year with the [Washington] Wizards. I was still in college at the time. You can imagine playing Pac-10 basketball, where it was just up and down, as much space as you wanted, and then there was Ben Wallace. Trying to get to the basket while he was in the lane was impossible. He was unassuming. He wasn’t hunting for attention. He was a real humble dude who just cared about the work.”

Wallace played for a handful of teams during his NBA career, but it was with the Detroit Pistons that he truly became a star. As the defensive anchor for the team, Wallace helped lead the Pistons to an NBA championship and many deep playoff runs.

He finished his career as a four-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2021, Wallace made history by becoming the first undrafted NBA player to end up in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

As for Bickerstaff, perhaps he still uses some lessons he learned from Wallace to help Cleveland’s current big men improve.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Cavaliers Nation.