RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - In the NBA, a defensive player who is proficient at rebounding is said to be "cleaning the glass".
Over the last decade, there haven't been more players better at rebounding than former Virginia Union standout Ben Wallace. The 16-year NBA veteran has won a title, and four Defensive Player Of The Year awards, tied for most alltime in league history.
This summer, some of the NBA's best players are headed to the London Olympics to represent the USA or their home country. Others are headed to exotic locals in all corners of the globe, enjoying the fruits of their labor and celebrity and recharging after the season.
Wallace is in a small gym at the corner of Westwood Ave and Hamilton Streets, at the business end of a broom, clearing off a floor that bears his name.
"I want to show everyone that I'm human" Wallace said. "I'm not some big superstar that won't come out of the house to set up the bleachers at my gym."
But Wallace is a superstar, talented enough to last longer in the NBA than all but a handful of players who have left an indelible mark on the game. He is 13th in career blocks and 30th in career rebounds. And before he ever signed his first NBA contract, he played in a league much like the one he sponsors today. It's the memory of that first opportunity that drives him to extend the same opportunity to the next generation of the game.
"Coming out of (Virginia) Union I played in the Richmond Summer Pro-Am" Wallace recalled. "I really enjoyed it, playing against the local college guys and up and coming high school stars. It was my opportunity to come out and play against some of the best and we want to keep that legacy alive."
Wallace's Tri-Cities Summer League has seen players like Eric Maynor, Ed Davis, and former Prince George and VMI standout Reggie Williams...all now drawing NBA paychecks. It pairs them up against some of the best college and high school players who are hoping to follow in their footsteps.
That's their opportunity. Wallace's opportunity is giving something back to his adopted hometown. It's not something he takes lightly, proving it by keeping the floors clean, setting up seats, and handling all the minor details of keeping the operation running. No job is too small for the biggest guy in the room.
"There are no superstars in this gym" Wallace said. "Just up and coming guys and a few guys who were fortunate enough to make a little money playing this game."
Wallace has an option for one more year with the Pistons, where he has spent a majority of his career. It would be his 17th in the NBA, and he says he is "50-50" about coming back. A lot of it will depend on how he plays in his own league.
"I'll be out here. How much of a player [he still is] remains to be seen!!"